may be distinguished from some similar-looking species in the same region - far west Texas centered on the Big Bend area - by the spines; both the 0 to 4 (usually 1) central spines and 11 to 17 radial spines are similar in size and color. Other species have smaller, thinner radials. Spine clusters overlap, but do not hide the greyish green stem. Clusters form on tubercles which are arranged in spiral, vertical rows (13 of them). Spines are grey or pale yellow-brown, and up to one inch in length.
Large flowers grow in springtime at the tip of the stem; they have a lobed green stigma at the center, surrounded by many yellow-tipped stamens, and petals which are mostly white or pale cream, often with darker midstripes. Fruits are light green, maturing to purplish, and they appear between May and July.