The stems grow to 2 m (rarely 4 m) tall and 15-23 cm in diameter, with a swollen base and an enlarged subterranean structure. There are 30 or more leaves in the crown, forming a bowl shaped, inward facing leaf crown, each leaf 80-125 cm long, pinnate, with 140-210 leaflets. Younger plants have spiny petioles, with older specimens losing this trait. The leaflets are covered with a dense layer of silver hairs, angled forward at 70-80°. The basal leaflets are reduced to spines, similar to Cycas revoluta. The taproot is contractile, and tends to pull crown downwards.
The female cones are open, with sporophylls 17-24 cm long, densely red-brown tomentose. Yellowish-brown sarcotesta, glabrous and/or glaucous. The male cones are solitary and erect, narrow conical, 18-24 cm long and 7-9 cm diameter.