The stem-tip of Barleria elegans looks very spiny. There are spaced clusters of spiny floral bracts as well as the spiny margins of the sepals around the flower buds still to open on the inflorescence stalk.
Apart from the open flowers, some cream-coloured ovoid shapes of closed corollas in the bud stage are visible among all the green spines. The inner surfaces of the open corollas are white.
There are about 250 Barleria species worldwide, about 60 of them found in South Africa. Barlerias are typically smallish shrubs, only some of them spiny (Manning, 2009; Pooley, 1998; iNaturalist).