Hyobanche sanguinea is a low-growing plant, yet very noticeable on account of its bright pink to red flowers in a dense cluster. They are unaccompanied by other above-ground parts beside some small scales or bracteoles around the flower bases.
The calyx is five-lobed, while the three-lobed, tubular corolla is curved, hairy and hooded. The curved stamens occur in two pairs of unequal length, the anthers one-lobed. It is the style that protrudes conspicuously when the flowers are open. This happens from midwinter to midspring.
The whitish protuberances have given cause for the plant's Afrikaans common name of katnaels (cat nails), notable but non-scratching (Manning, 2007; Bean and Johns, 2005; Stoneman, 1928).