Leaves in Commiphora are pinnately compound (or very rarely unifoliolate). Many species are armed with spines. Bark is often exfoliating, peeling in thin sheets to reveal colorful, sometimes photosynthetic bark, below. Stems are frequently succulent, especially in species native to drier environments.
Flowers are subdioecious and fruits are drupes, usually with a 2-locular ovary (one is abortive).
In response to wounding, the stems of many species will exude aromatic resins.