Usually a low spreading much-branched shrub, up to 3 m tall, often forming thickets, rarely a small tree. Bark grey to yellowish-green, flaking in small papery, cream-coloured pieces; short lateral branchlets spine-tipped. Leaves clustered, subsessile, 1-foliolate, sometimes 3-foliolate with much reduced lateral leaflets; lamina obovate, up to 5.5 × 3.2 cm, hairless but sometimes with scattered glands near the base of the midrib; margin toothed. Flowers small, bell-shaped, reddish, in subsessile clusters on the spine-tipped branchlets, appearing before the leaves. Fruit broadly ellipsoid, pointed, c. 1 cm long, hairless. Seeds black with a 3-4-armed red pseudaril.
Note: This species is generally similar to C. glandulosa differing mainly in the general shrub-like habit and the hairless calyx. Some 3-foliolate leaves, mostly with very reduced lateral leaflets, are usually present, while in C. glandulosa these are very rare.