Pelargonium alternans is a shrublet of up to 50 cm with woody, slightly succulent stems. The main stem may become 3 cm in diameter, often gnarled and twisted on old specimens. Leaves and stems are hairy, also endowed with glandular hairs. The leaves are pinnate and much divided or dissected into tiny lobes. The overall leaf shape is oblong to ovate. The leaf appearance is very uneven from the fine lobes and hairs. This has earned the plant the Afrikaans common name of blomkoolmalva (cauliflower pelargonium). Browsing by game and livestock contribute to the untidy appearance of the plant, although the variable and somewhat unpleasant scent may sometimes keep hungry animals away.
The night scented flowers are white or pink, usually with dark pink lines on the upper petal pair. The branched pink style protrudes well beyond the anthers around it. The needle-like fruits release seeds that fly to new sites with the help of hairy appendages. They then corkscrew their way into the earth where possible, using the twisting tails attached to the seeds (www.cactus-art.biz; Shearing and van Heerden, 2008: Vlok and Schutte-Vlok, 2010).