Stems of cryptantha echinella
grow upright and branch sparingly, generally to a height of a little less than one foot. Stems are covered by short, bristly hairs and longer, rougher hairs, spreading or ascending. The dark green leaves have a covering of strigose hairs on the upper surfaces, lying flat, and longer, spreading, bristly hairs on the under surfaces, clearly visible from above. These hairs are bulbous at the base.
Flowers are subtended by leaf-like bracts. The flowers are small; the white corolla lobes are less than 0.1 inch across, above a larger green calyx up to a quarter of an inch long, with four lobes separated by lighter-colored membranes. The tips of the lobes are usually curved backwards. The calyx is broadest at the base, and noticeably constricted above. The calyx lobes are covered by sharp bristles. The appendages at the base of the corolla lobes are inconspicuous, colored pale yellow.