A succulent shrub or tree up to 8 or 10 m high with ascending branches like a candelabrum.
The branches have constrictions at irregular intervals.
The many side branches arise at the constrictions.
There are 4 (3 to 5) wings or angles down the segments with the edges being scalloped.
The pairs of spines on the wing edges are about 2.5 cm apart.
The divergent spines are 2.5 to 5 cm long.
Each pair is on a dark oval spine shield up to 6 mm long.
The 2 stipules, in the form of tiny prickles may be present at the base of the spines.
There may be some rudimentary scale-like leaves but usually there are none.
Inflorescences are just above, but separated from, the spine shields.
They are a dense cluster of up to 7 cyathia on short peduncles.
Each cyathium has 2 deep reddish bracts below the involucre.
The involucre is around 8 mm across with 5 lobes on the rim.
The wide triangular lobes have a deeply fringed edge.
Between the involucral lobes are 5 almost touching nectiferous glands.
The pale greenish-yellow glands are kidney-shaped or semi-circular.
Inside the involucre are 5 male flowers consisting of one stamen and hairy bracteoles.
The pale filaments holds the red bilobed anthers above the involucre.
The central female flower is an ovary on a short pedicel.
It has 3 locules and 3 bilobed styles.