Ferraria variabilis is a cormous perennial growing an annual tuft of sword-shaped or linear, basal leaves that sheath the stem. The corm accumulates annually in a chain-shape. The plant becomes 20 cm tall, occasionally taller.
The flowers have tepals that form a shallow cup and tips that spread widely with eye-catching crinkling of their margins. Flower colour reflects the variability of the specific epithet: yellow with brown speckles and bands, pale yellow with dark blue bands and speckling, sometimes more. The filaments of the stamens are united in a central column. The style branches are deeply fringed, concealing the anthers. The anthers have two lobes positioned in a fork-shape.
The distribution lies from Namibia, the Northern Cape, North West and the Western Cape to Worcester and the Little Karoo.
The habitat is Nama Karoo and succulent Karoo on sandy and shale flats and rocky slopes. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century (Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2010; Manning, 2007; www.pacificbulbsociety.org; http://redlist.sanbi.org).