Adoxa moschatellina is an inconspicuous boreal plant with unique flower morphology. It usually grows in shady thickets that people generally avoid, and is also easily overlooked. The plant grows from a creeping white rhizome, producing several, deeply divided basal leaves and one to several flowering stalks. Stems sometimes reach 10-15 cm tall. The basal leaves are long-petioled, thrice-divided with deeply lobed leaflets and entire margins, dark green above and paler beneath. Flowering stalks are slender, unbranched, bearing two opposite leaves and a terminal inflorescence. The inflorescence is made up of five flowers: one four-petalled flower facing upwards, surrounded by four inconspicuous five-petalled flowers, the grouping giving the flowering head a box-like appearance. The topmost flower has 4 styles and 4 deeply divided anthers, the other four flowers have 5 styles and anthers. Both petals and sepals are yellowish-green colored. The fruit is a dry drupe containing 4-5 nutlets. The plants have a musky smell, the source of the epithet 'moschatellina'. No other plant in the flora has the distinctive box-like flower arrangement.
Adoxa moschatellina is perennial. It flowers in early spring and fruits in midsummer.
Moschatel is pollinated by flies and moths in the UK but plants often do not set seed (Holmes 2005). Flowers are self-compatible, but self-fertilization reduces seed set relative to outcrossing (Holmes 2005). The fruit is a dry drupe with 4 or 5 seeds, potentially dispersed by small mammals and insects. Plants also vegetatively reproduce via rhizomes.
Adoxa moschatellina is an incompletely circumpolar species (circumboreal) that occurs across northern regions of the globe, except for Greenland. In North America, A. moschatellina occurs in scattered localities in the Rocky Mountains, the northern Midwest, and across boreal Canada. In Alaska, this species occurs in widely south of the Brooks Range crest, including the Seward Peninsula, the White Mountains and Yukon-Tanana uplands, the Alaska Range, Chugach, and Wrangell Mountains. In Denali, this species occurs in scattered localities across most of the park, including valleys and slopes on the south and north sides of the Alaska Range, the foothills in the northeastern part of the park, as well as several scattered localities in the river flats in the northwestern part of the Park.
In Denali, this species occurs at a wide range of elevations, from 90 to 1338 m, with the high number of sites at 900-1100 m, but its frequency dramatically dropping higher up. It occurs on all inclines, its frequency peaking at 12-20 degrees. This species shows a strong preference for southern aspects.