African boxthorn is a woody shrub that can grow up to 6 m tall. Its rigid branches are leafy and end in a hard, sharp spine reaching up to 150 mm long. It has globe- to egg-shaped berries that are orange-red when ripe with up to 70 seeds. Flowers appear singly or in pairs at the leaf-stem junction. They are approximately 12 mm in diameter with five waxy white petals, each with a purplish base. The main flowering period is during summer but flowering and seed production may occur throughout the year.