Tree 5-25 m. Leaves membranous, elliptic-oblong or lanceolate, 9-20 by 1.5-5.5 cm, base short- to long-cuneate, apex acute-acuminate, drying olivaceous to brown above, lower surface with persistent sparse hairs of mixed sizes, 0.1-0.2(-0.3) mm; Inflorescences: Fruits solitary or 2 per infructescence, broadly ellipsoid, 2-2.7 by 1.5-2 cm, with dense hairs 0.1 mm long, dry pericarp 1.5 mm thick;
Asia-Tropical: Borneo present (Sarawak present), W Sabah present
Malesia: Borneo (Sarawak, W Sabah).
Knema subhirtella is related to K. mogeana and K. hirtella, all three with a similar indumentum on the lower leaf surface. In general habit the species may be confused with K. stenophylla, K. glaucescens, and K. piriformis. Knema mogeana differs in its smaller male buds, and distinctly smaller fruits. Knema hirtella has stouter twigs, larger male buds, the androphore always with hairs towards the base, and somewhat larger fruits. In K. subhirtella the androphore is either glabrous or with a few hairs towards the base only. Knema stenophylla (in Borneo subsp. longipedicellata) differs in the subglobose (not obovoid) male buds, cleft almost to the base, and an inconspicuous indumentum on the lower leaf surface, consisting of scattered stellate hairs of only 0.1 mm diameter. Knema glaucescens, also with a globose male buds, has much denser hairs on the lower leaf surface. Knema piriformis (known from a limited number of specimens from montane localities) generally has more elongate male buds, with the androphore longer than the diameter of the disc. Through its rather variable, ± pear-shaped male buds, K. subhirtella obscures the demarcation of the group of species around K. glauca, in which it obviously has a marginal position. On account of its ill-defined bud shape, it keyed out twice in the general key to male flowering specimens.