This species is made peculiar and unique as there is a variegation that is never the same for all the specimens, it can be recognized by seeing the lighter parts on the stem where chlorophyll is missing. It is a globular cactus with slow growth and a solitary habit that can be clustered over time, recognized as the largest of the barrel-shaped cacti. Its stem is dark green in color, slightly concave at the top where, over time, a thick white fluff similar to a pillow forms. It has multiple well furrowed ribs, with numerous fluffy areoles of white-yellowish color, from which long and rigid gray-brownish thorns emerge. Flowering occurs in spring-summer only on large, adult specimens, generating many small yellow flowers that form a ring around the top of the plant.