is a relatively lightly-spined cholla, forming untidy clumps with thin branches, up to 6 inches long and less than one inch across. Tubercles are fairly prominent, up to an inch in length. The thick white spines usually number 1 or 2 per areole, but may be absent.
Flowers are an unusual color, pale reddish brown, with purplish tints. Stamens have bronze filaments, greenish towards the base, and yellow anthers. The lobed stigma is pale creamy yellow. The spineless fruits (up to one inch long) are green, maturing to dull red, different to the smaller, bright red fruits of the Christmas cholla
, which inhabits a similar area.
In some parts of its range the species forms hybrids with the Christmas cholla and the tree cholla
. The candle cholla is found mostly in the arid, lightly populated grasslands of New Mexico and west Texas, so is not often encountered.