Encephalartos arenarius is a medium-sized cycad that grows in sandy soil. It is often multi-stemmed due to the tendency of producing suckers. Some of the stems may be procumbent, sometimes partly underground.
There are two varieties: a comparatively common green-leaved one and a rare blue-leaved one. The green-leaved one has a bloom on the dull green leaves. The pinnae (leaflets attached to the sturdy central rachis) are sometimes curved towards the leaf tip. They may have one tooth on the upper margins, but the upper edges are mostly entire. There are up to three sometimes spine-tipped lobes on the lower margin of a leaflet. The leaf curls back along its upper half.
Single cones are produced by E. arenarius, the Alexandria cycad and as always with cycads, the genders are apart on different plants; botanically referred to as being dioecious. The cones are greenish in colour with seeds that are red and shiny when they ripen and are released (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.florcomgardens.co.za).