Mature colonies form thick, fleshy masses of irregular shape, typically of stout, finger-like lobes that usually exceed 20 mm in diameter. Young, developing colonies form encrustations about 5 -10mm thick. The height and breadth of colonies are up to 200 mm. Colonies are white or orange in colour, but may appear reddish or brownish during periods of inactivity when the polyps are withdrawn into the colony, owing to the development of a film of epibiota.May be confused with Alcyonium glomeratum, which prefers sites sheltered from wave action or tidal streams. It is blood red or rust coloured (occasionally pale orange or yellowish), has relatively slender branches, and a softer, more flaccid texture but a rough surface. In Alcyonium glomeratum the colonies are also more contractile, and cross sections through the fingers show numerous cavities.