Much-branched spreading shrubs forming thickets, developing a trunk with age. Joints arcuate, cylindrical, tuberculate, c. 3 cm in diam., glaucous-green. Leaves linear to terete, 3-6 (-12) cm long, arcuate, fleshy, persistent. Areoles with a protruding white woolly pubescence; with 1 or 2 acicular, straight, strong yellow-brown spines up to 5 cm long. Flowers with the hypanthium forming a reduced apical spineless joint which in turn may proliferate; petaloid segments 2-3 cm long, orange or greenish yellow. Fruit not seen in South African material. ('Green, pear-shaped, 9 cm long, usually sterile; seeds large, irregular, 10 mm broad' fide Britton & Rose).
Shrub, up to 5 m high; cladodes cylindrical; tuberculate; glaucous green; areoles white woolly. Spines 1-4, strong, straight, up to 80 mm long, greyish white, white or yellowish brown when young. Leaves linear, 30-60 mm long, curved, fleshy, persistent. Flowers: 60-70 mm long; floral tube relatively long, tuberculate, with porrect, subulate bract scales resembling small leaves. perianth 1/3 of flower length; perianth segments 20-30 mm long, scarlet, orange or yellowish. Fruit elongate, obovoid-oblong to clavate or ± spherical, > 50 mm long, ± spiny.
Recorded as a pest from the Orange Free State, Cape and Natal. Found both wild and cultivated in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and probably northern Chile, according to Britton & Rose.