This Hoplophyllum spinosum stem-tip seen in August has small clusters of buds from leaf axils on short stalks (for the cluster as a whole) and apparently stalkless ones at the stem-tip in a slightly larger group.
The bud tip is conical, its base rounded, stiffly wrapped in about seven rows of involucral bracts; the outer ones smaller and broadly elliptic.
The plant is not easily mistaken for another species, with the possible exception of the only other species of the Hoplophyllum genus, viz. H. ferox (Le Roux, et al, 2005; Leistner, (Ed.), 2000; iNaturalist; Wikipedia).