The common name of castilleja lanata
, woolly Indian paintbrush, refers to the short, matted, woolly hairs covering the stems and both sides of the leaves. Leaves are linear, angled at around 90 degrees to the stems, and often have upturned edges.
Upper stem leaves give way to red bracts, wider and more oblanceolate in shape, usually with a pair of lobes at the base. The bracts have long white hairs on their lower sides. Flowers are tubular, tapering towards the tip, from where the style and stigma protrude a little way. The greenish-yellow corolla is about 1.5 inches long. More than half of the corolla is enclosed by the red, lobed calyx, similar in appearance to the bracts. The calyx lobes are about the same length as the calyx tube. Plants bloom through winter and early spring, in desert areas, their main habitat, but during summer in more mountainous regions.