Brachystelma barberae is a perennial, geophytic dwarf herb. One or more short annual stems are produced from a disc-shaped underground tuber. The tuber is depressed in the centre and becomes irregular in shape with age. The simple, opposite leaves are oblong with short petioles. The striking flowers can be as many as 50 in large, spherical masses close to the ground. The flowers have an extremely unpleasant scent. The flowers sometimes precede the leaves, opening in rapid succession, usually within 2-3 days. The slender lobes are united at the tips into a cage-like structure, greenish on the outside and maroon to crimson-brown on the inside. The fruit is a follicle with a thick, smooth, velvety pericarp.
Brachystelma barberae is without doubt the most spectacular species in the genus. If the bizarre, cage-like, many- flowered head does not draw attention, the rotting smell of the flowers will surely elicit a response. The colour, odour and segments of the flower that are united at the tips, are reminiscent of a decaying carcass.Plant in a very well drained soil and keep on the dry side.