The River Oak is an attractive evergreen tree with fine greyish green needle-like foliage that grows to a height of 10–35 m with a spread of about 10m. The trunk is usually erect, with dense rough bark. Flowers are reddish-brown in the male and red in the female. Cones are small, nearly round to elongated and about 10mm across.
Trees are usually found in sunny locations along stream banks and swampy areas. It’s widely recognised as an important tree for stabilising riverbanks and for soil erosion prevention accepting wet and dry soils. The foliage is quite palatable to stock. C. cunninghamiana is frost tolerant down to around −8 °C (18 °F) and is widely used effectively as a screening plant. It is useful on windy sites and is also suited to coastal areas.