Opuntia rufida is a multi-branched cactus that may reach 3 to 5 feet tall and a bit wider. The plant generally has a short trunk, and the thickish tomentose pads are subcircular, obovate, or elliptical. Areoles are spineless but have showy red-brown glochids. In mid-spring the plant produces a profusion of brilliant yellow flowers changing to orange and red, 3 to 4 inches across. In summer, the oblong fruit is bright red to purple, 2 to 3 inches long.