Hoodia gordonii is a spiny, leafless succulent that grows a branched clump of up to 50 cylindrical erect stems. The stems are blue-green to grey-green, about 5 cm in diameter and (occasionally) up to 1 m in height. Stem surfaces are covered in numerous vertical spiny ridges separated by sunken grooves.
The dominant flower feature is the nearly circular, lobed corolla, shaped like a shallow dish. The outer and inner coronas as well as the vital flower parts are quite small in the centre of the "dish". Flower colour is a pleasing beige or maroon with shade variations. Not so pleasing is the vile carrion smell of the flowers, resembling the stench of rotten meat. This clearly thrills the fly pollinators.
The cylindrical, paired seed follicles that follow the flowers taper towards the hooked beak-like structure at their tips. The plant is found in southern Namibia and Namaqualand up to the Gariep River (White and Sloane, 1937).