Makahiya is a diffusely spreading, half-woody herb, with branched stems up to 1 meter long, sparingly prickly with numerous deflexed, bristly hairs. The leaves are very sensitive, both pinnae and leaflets, folding when touched. Pinnae are usually 4, digitately arranged at the end of each petiole, and 4 to 9 centimeters long. The leaflets are narrowly oblong, inequilateral, 1 to centimeters long, sessile, sparingly bristly, with pointed tips. Heads are long-peduncled, solitary or 2 to 3 in each axil, about 1 centimeter in diameter. Pods are flat, slightly recurved, 1 to 2 centimeters long, with 3 to 5 one-sided joints that fall away on maturity. Florets are red in the upper part with pink to lavender filaments.