The plant is an intricately monstrous form of Euphorbia lactea, up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall, with fan-shaped, crested branches, forming a snaky ridge or crowded cluster. It is dark green succulent attractively marked with silver-grey, zigzag patterns.
The Coral Cactus is not really a cactus, but two succulent plants joined together to form a beautiful “Franken-plant." Fan-shaped Eurphorbia lactea is typically grafted on top of a Euphorbia neriifolia or a cactus root stock. The showy part of the plant, the section that resembles coral, is called the crest, and is the result of a rare mutation in Euphorbia lactea favored by horticulturists who mass produce these plants for sale. The grafting is accomplished by using a sharp, sterile knife to make a convex, v-shaped cut at the bottom of the crest and a concave, v-shaped cut in the top of the root stock. Although not particularly spiny, the Coral Cactus is potentially dangerous. All parts of the plant are poisonous, and its white sap can irritate skin.