This species is characterized by its generally medium-sized leaves, stipules with a short truncate sheath and two acute lobes, broadly pyramidal to corymbiform inflorescences with the axes generally orange to red, and short tubular corollas that are usually yellow to red and lighter in color than the pedicels and higher-order axes. This species belongs to a complex of variable plants or forms that centers around Palicourea crocea and Palicourea croceoides, and also includes Palicourea fastigiata, Palicourea pustulata, and probably some other species. The systematics of this group are not understood and will probably require field work and extensive work to understand.
As cirumscribed here, Palicourea croceoides is similar to but distinct from Palicourea crocea, based on study of these species in the Antilles; these are difficult to separate in the Antilles as dried specimens, and the South American plants probably have more systematic complexity however. Palicourea croceoides generally has longer corollas that are bright yellow, and are ligher in color than the inflorescence axes, which are often dark orange to red. In contrast Palicourea crocea has shorter dark orange or red corollas that are darker in color than the inflorescence axes, which are orange to yellow. In Puerto Rico plants of Palicourea crocea flower and produce fruits once during a normal year, generally during May through August, while the individual plants of Palicourea croceoides flower off and on throughout the year and the fruits mature while new flowers are produced. Apparently these two species in the Antilles also vary in chromosome number (Kiehn, pers. comm.). Taylor (Flora São Paulo State, 2007) included Palicourea radians within the circumscription of Palicourea croceoides, but with more material now available these are clearly two separate species.