The short (up to 6 inches) green stems of grusonia emoryi
have very pronounced tubercles and show the distinctive club-shape of all species in this genus; narrow at the base, widening to be 2 inches across at the top. Spine cover is lighter than some similar species, allowing the stems to be clearly visible. Each areole has between 12 to 30 spines, longest 2 inches, colored white, pale yellow or pale brown. Both flowers and fruit are yellow. The plant occurs in scattered, low elevation locations in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts, in three states.