The pineapple plant is a terrestrial herb 2 1/2 to 5 ft (.75-1.5 m) high with a spread of 3 to 4 ft (.9-1.2 m); a very short, stout stem and a rosette of waxy, strap-like leaves, long-pointed, 20 to 72 in (50-180cm) long; usually needle tipped and generally bearing sharp, up-curved spines on the margins. The leaves may be all green or variously striped with red, yellow or ivory down the middle or near the margins.

At blooming time, the stem elongates and enlarges near the apex and puts forth a head of small purple or red flowers, each accompanied by a single red, yellowish or green bract. The stem continues to grow and acquires at its apex a compact tuft of stiff, short leaves called the “crown” or “top”. Occasionally a plant may bear 2 or 3 heads, or as many as 12 fused together, instead of the normal one.

As individual fruits develop from the flowers they join together forming a cone shaped, compound, juicy, fleshy fruit to 12 in (30 cm) or more in height, with the stem serving as the fibrous but fairly succulent core. The tough, waxy rind, made up of hexagonal units, may be dark-green, yellow, orange-yellow or reddish when the fruit is ripe. The flesh ranges from nearly white to yellow. If the flowers are pollinated, small, hard seeds may be present, but generally one finds only traces of undeveloped seeds.

Offshoots, called “slips”, emerge from the stem around the base of the fruit and shoots grow in the axils of the leaves. Suckers (aerial suckers) are shoots arising from the base of the plant at ground level; those proceeding later from the stolons beneath the soil are called basal suckers or “ratoons”.