Leaves of stephanomeria tenuifolia
are usually completely withered at flowering time; prior to this, the upper stem leaves are short and bract-like, while those at and near the base are narrow and linear. All leaves, and stems, are hairless. Plants produce up to five stems, which branch readily, and are green when young, brownish when older. Branches are held at a large angle, close to 90 degrees.
Flowerheads form in summer at the ends of the branches, sometimes stalkless but usually attached by a stalk of up to 2 inches, lined by small, alternate bracts. A few similarly-sized bractlets enclose the base of the involucre. Phyllaries number five or six; these are hairless, colored green or reddish, with rounded tips. Flowerheads usually have four or five toothed pink florets, less often six. The pappus bristles, visible most readily once the florets have withered, are pure white, and lined with tiny feathery hairs for their whole length. This is one aspect which differentiates stephanomeria tenuifolia from the very similar stephanomeria pauciflora
, as the latter has brown bristles, with hairs only on the uppermost 80%.