Much-branched, forming large dense clumps up to 3 m tall (not arborescent). Joints flattened, orbicular, 20-40 cm in diam., glaucous-green, densely beset with areoles in a regular sub-spiral arrangment, areoles small, c. 4 mm in diam., sunken, with numerous glochidia and 3-6 spines of varying lengths mostly pointing downwards, the longest c. 2 cm long, the marginal spine clusters more strongly developed. Flowers with a cup-shaped hypanthium, 2.5 cm long wide, profusely covered by areoles containing bristles around the mouth; petaloid segments yellow, up to 4 cm long. Fruit not seen.
Recorded as a pest in the eastern Cape and Natal. Also reported as a pest in Australia. Originally from Mexico.