A low branching, spreading bushy shrub that grows up to 3 m tall with soft-wooded and crooked main stem. Slender branches are green in colour, somewhat succulent with soft spongy tissue inside (pith) and with clear leaf scar on the outside. Leaves are simple, slightly alternate in arrangement, normally crowded at the tip of the branches; slightly fleshy, obovate in shape, 15 to 30 cm long and 8 to 10 cm wide with rounded apex and prominent midrib. A tuft of white long hairs is present in leaf axils. Inflorescence is a cyme, axillary in position, branched and slender. Sea lettuce is often called as half flower because corolla tube, which is about 1.5 cm long, appears to be split down one side with five spreading petals. Flowers are white or pinkish- white in colour and fragrant. Fruit is a drupe, white or purplish in colour, ovoid or sub-globose in shape, about 1.5 cm in diameter, soft, fleshy and tasteless. Stone is ellipsoid in shape, ribbed with corky outer layer.
It is one of the early colonizers (one of the first to grow in open places) of the beaches of the Maldives. It grows well in sandy, calcareous, alkaline soil. It is highly tolerant to drought, aerosol salt spray and salinity. It grows well in full sun. It is not cultivated in the Maldives. However, it can be easily propagated by seeds. Fruits float and the seeds remain viable for more than a year in seawater. However, they will germinate only with freshwater. It can also be propagated by stem cuttings. Stem cuttings need shade and regular watering for better survival and growth rate.
In the Maldives, earlier it was used for building traditional houses. Harvested stems were kept in the seawater for a few days and after that bark was removed to get beautiful white sticks, which were used as roofing strips and rafters. According to some elders, leaves of sea lettuce were eaten though bitter during the Second World War when no food was available. Presently, it is mainly used for firewood. Pith of large stem is used for handicrafts. It is also used in traditional medicine. Leaf juice is used to alleviate painful swellings and a few drops of juice extracted from the seeds are added to the eyes to reduce reddening. It can be one of the important components of the front row vegetation of coastal bioshield and can be multiplied for coastal stabilization.