A genus comprising a single species of deciduous, hermaphroditic tree. Stems and branches often with prickles persisting for some to many years. Leaves simple, palmately lobed, borne on long and short shoots. Inflorescence a terminal, corymbose panicle of umbels. (Xiang & Lowry 2007).
Recent phylogenetic work on Araliaceae indigenous to China shows Kalopanax sister to a sub-clade comprising Macropanax and Metapanax (Li & Wen 2016) but previous studies have inferred a closer relationship to Eleutherococcus (now including the defunct Acanthopanax; Lowry et al. 2004). Indeed, Mabberly sank Kalopanax into Eleutherococcus as recently as 2017 (Mabberley 2017) but to date this view has met with little acceptance. Certainly temperate horticulturists will find commonality between Kalopanax and Eleutherococcus in their armed stems and many floral details, but Kalopanax differs most obviously in being a true tree and by having simple leaves, while its deciduous habit and prickles separate it from Macropanax and Metapanax (Xiang & Lowry 2007). The finer details of the genus level classification in this area of the Araliaceae are likely to remain unsettled for some time to come.