The palm is erect, with a single slender stem or, more often, several stems to 8 in (20 cm) thick, in a cluster; generally armed with stiff, black spines in circular rows from the base to the summit. There are occasional specimens with only a few spines. The pejibaye attains a height of 65 to 100 ft (20 30 m) and usually produces suckers freely. The leaves, with short, spiny petioles, are pinnate, about 8 to 12 ft (2.4-3.6 m) long, with many linear, pointed leaflets to 2 ft (60 cm) long and 1 1/4 in (3.2 cm) wide; dark green above, pale beneath, spiny on the veins. The inflorescence, at first enclosed in a spiny spathe, is composed of slender racemes 8 to 12 in (20-30 cm) long on which the yellowish male and female flowers are mingled except for the terminal few inches where there are only male flowers.
The fruit, hanging in clusters of 50 to 100 or sometimes as many as 300, weighing 25 lbs (11 kg) or more, is yellow to orange or scarlet, yellow-and-red, or brownish at first, turning purple when fully ripe. It is ovoid, oblate, cylindrical or conical, 1 to 2 in (2.5-5 cm) long, cupped at the base by a green, leathery, 3-pointed calyx. A single stem may bear 5 or 6 clusters at a time. The skin is thin, the flesh yellow to light-orange, sweet, occasionally with a trace of bitterness, dry and mealy. Some fruits are seedless. Normally there is a single conical seed 3/4 in (2 cm) long, with a hard, thin shell and a white, oily, coconut-flavored kernel. Rarely one finds 2 fused seeds.