is one of the taller members of this generally low-growing genus; up to 6 inches, usually producing several stems that may be erect or bent down, staying close to the ground. Short, narrow, dark green leaves grow at the base of the plant but mostly along the stems, all the way to just below the flowerheads, which are borne singly at the top; basal leaves are often withered by flowering. Leaves and stems have a covering of short bristly hairs, lying against the surface.
Buds are green, with the phyllaries (26 to 30 of them) pressed tightly together to form a neat sphere; they remain against the involucre when the flowerhead opens. Phyllaries may have brown or reddish tips and/or edges, but often less prominently than the similar townsendia incana
. Flowerheads have between 12 and 30 white ray florets (pink when in bud), about a third of an inch long, and between 60 and 120 (or more) yellow disc florets.