The genus is named after the Italian nobleman Filippo degli Albizzi, who introduced it to Europe in the mid-18th century.
A. julibrissin is a small deciduous tree growing to 5–16 m (16–52 ft) tall, with a broad crown of level or arching branches. The bark is dark greenish grey in colour and striped vertically as it gets older. The flowers are produced throughout the summer in dense inflorescences. They have been observed to be attractive to bees and butterflies. The fruit is a flat brown pod 10–20 cm long and 2–2.5 cm broad, containing several seeds inside.