A large unbranched stout tree up to 16 m tall. Stem up to 10 m tall, covered with the old persistent adpressed erect leafbases. Leaves rosulate, younger erect, outer somewhat spreading, pinnate, up to c. 10 m long; petiole unarmed concave and clasping below; the rhachis narrows into a canaliculate stalk for about two thirds of its length with the two spiny margins unequal in height gradually approaching one another until they merge (the lower ridge disappearing); at this point the leaf bends outwards; the pinnae are inserted on the outside of the marginal ridges, linear, 45-65 cm long, 5 cm broad, folded below, pale green above, waxy below, the margins bearing small sharp ascending pale spinules about 4 mm long, midrib raised with a double row of spinules in the lower half which merge to form a single row above. Inflorescence apical, erect, exserted centrally above the crown of leaves, conical, up to 3 m tall, its lowest flowering branches in the axils of the upper leaves; the subsequent leaves (c. 13) subtending the flowering branches, gradually reduced, the uppermost c. 50 cm long; peduncle 11 cm in diam. at the base, covered by 2-ranked, clasping imbricate tubular hard bracts; the basal bract of each branch differing from the following ones in shape; it is 2-pronged like a lobster-claw, flattened and bi-carinate, up to 40 cm long and 6 cm broad; it recurs on all the following side-branches becoming progressively smaller higher up; the subsequent bracts tubular with a truncate apex which forms an acute point, the points arranged alternately from side to side; branches exserted, laterally compressed, sub-4-ranked with 2 side-branches close together on each side of the rhachis, erect at first, patent in fruit, bracts similar to those covering the peduncle but reduced in size; the side branches bearing the numerous abbreviated fertile spikes in close proximity to one another; their arrangement is also sub-4-ranked with two rows of spikes close together on each side of the laterally compressed rhachis; fertile spikes spreading and twisting, with the unisexual flowers 2-ranked, the female occupying the lower part of the spike, the male the upper part; the apical spikes with male flowers only; the lower spikes up to 40 cm long becoming shorter towards the apex; fertile bracts similar in shape and form to those of the branches but smaller. Male flowers surrounded by a bi-carinate bracteole; hiding inside it is a small tubular, truncate calyx and exserted from it a corolla consisting of 3 hard linear-falcate segments which are nearly free to the base, 10 mm long, 2 mm broad, with a triangular, slightly swollen apex; stamens 6, free, filaments connivent, swollen, 4 mm long, 3-angled, apiculate, anthers with parallel linear locules 6 mm long. Female flowers surrounded by a bi-carinate bracteole and a second one inside it which is short, tubular and truncate, calyx and corolla enlarging after fruit has set, exserted from the bracteoles; calyx tubular, splitting irregularly into 3 truncate lobes when the ovary enlarges, 8 mm long; corolla segments 3, hard, beaked; staminodial ring adnate to the corolla, flattened, with unequal blunt teeth, some bearing minute anthers; ovary 3-celled, uni-ovulate, with the minute scales fimbriate; stigmas 3, sessile, apical, tongue-shaped, erect, at anthesis exposed through a small apical aperture of the corolla before the latter enlarges. Fruit one-seeded, ellipsoid, 6-9 cm long and 3-5 cm in diam. hard, shiny yellow-brown, shortly beaked, the reflexed convex scales arranged in 6 vertical rows, median groove shallow, edges with a short golden fringe of hairs.