The name of this plant derives from the place of its origin (the province of Matanzas, in the northern part of Cuba). It is perhaps the best known and most cultivated Melocactus, which consists of a globular body depressed at the apex, with deeply furrowed ribs, not very evident areoles and robust spines, slightly curved towards the plant. It has a characteristic light green color embellished with splendid yellow spots and streaks, which create a unique design on each specimen, never the same as the others have. The spines are of a grayish-brown, not very dark color. Once it reaches mature age, when the cactus stops growing, a whitish spherical cephalium develops at the apex of the plant, which is formed by bristles of red shades, from which small flowers with thin pink or carmine red petals bloom, that often do not fully emerge from the cephalium. This Melocactus is particularly appreciated for its characteristic showy cephalium, for which it is commonly known as "Turkish cap".