Shrubby, 0.5-1 m tall, forming dense and large bushes on small dunes which the plant builds up itself. Rootstock woody. Stems robust, terete, pale yellowish or glaucous to greyish green, sulcate; twigs subvirgate, pubescent in the youngest parts, the floriferous ones subtomentose. Spines terete, straight or nearly so, 2-3 cm long, glabrous. Male flowers greyish-tomentose outside; sepals ovate to suborbicular-obcordate, 4-6 mm long; petals furfuraceous inside, 10-12 mm long, pale yellow. Female flowers: peduncle in fruit incrassate, ultimately attaining a length of about 1 cm; staminodes erect, linear, dilated near the apex, 5-7 mm long; ovary 15-17 mm long, densely covered with puberulous oblong-conical soft 2-2.5 mm long spines; style 9-10 mm long, stigma 6-7 mm wide. Fruit pale orange-yellow when ripe, with orange-yellow pulp, up to about 20 cm in diam. Seeds nearly white, sub-obliquely truncate near the base, 14-15 mm long, 9-11 mm wide, 6-7 mm thick.
Monoecious, deep-rooted, pungent, much-branched shrub, up to 1 m tall, with leafless often longitudinally grooved stems bearing paired spines at nodes, without tendrils. Male flowers solitary or clustered, 10-12 mm long, pale yellow. Female flowers solitary in spine axils, 10-12 mm long, pale yellow with green venation, with greyish hairs outside. Fruit ± spherical, ± 200 mm diam., pale orange-yellow when ripe, with spine/bristle-tipped fleshy conical protuberances, edible when ripe. Seeds highly nutritious. Flowering sporadically throughout year, mainly Feb.-Oct.