This is a very distinctive species and easy to recognise, the tall stems being covered in sharp needle like grey spines towards their uppermost parts. The tall stems branch from the base and eventually form clumps 6 to 21 tall and are 4½ to 5 in diameter. The stems as they mature become more spiny above than below. Occasionally the ends of stems will spiral a little or dramatically in a right or left hand manner. Such top cuttings are much prized by Californian enthusiasts, fetching high prices.
Flowers are produced mostly from the upper stems. The species is nocturnal flowering. On mature plants the flowers are greenish white on the underside and pinkish white inside and emit an unpleasant odour. The fruits are as red as ripe strawberries and are seldom seen, as they are quickly taken by hungry desert birds.The fruits reach 1 ½ inch in diameter and are spineless and fleshy when mature.
Hardiness zones 9-10, (-5°C/25°F, 1°C/35°F). This species presents no problems in cultivation and will do well in a sunny spot in a cactus house in a gritty soil mix and let the soil dry out between waterings. They will tolerate severe drought if they have a large colony of stems.