One distinguishing feature of townsendia exscapa
is the apparent lack of stem; the large white, yellow-centered flowerheads are in fact borne on a very short stem, at most one inch high, surrounded by the leaves, which are usually spatulate in shape and have a covering of white hairs, lying flat against the surface. Leaves are usually much longer than the ray florets, in the range 1 to 2 inches. Plants may produce just one stem, surrounded by a neat rosette of leaves, or several, forming small clumps, with overlapping leaves.
The involucre at the base of the flowerhead is ringed by 4 to 6 or more rows of phyllaries, which are all of a similar length, and often reddish along the margins. The 11 to 40 white ray florets may also have a pinkish tinge at the edges. Rays are slightly less than half an inch long. The yellow disc florets are numerous, from 100 to 150 or more.