Chionanthus pygmaeus is a shrub or small tree that is often less than 1 m tall, but can grow to 4 m tall. The twigs are opposite or sub-opposite and
stiff, while the leaf scars and leaves are mostly opposite but sometimes alternate. The leaves are simple, mostly 3 to 10 cm long, and lacking stipules.
They have short petioles, and the somewhat leathery blades are ovate to elliptic or obovate in shape, and acute to rounded at the tip. The base of the blade is
attenuated to the petiole. The upper surface of the blade is dark yellow-green and smooth, but the lower surface is paler and reticulate.