General: plant 15-80 cm tall. Growth habit: erect perennial from fibrous roots. Stems: clustered from a woody stem base, amply leafy, generally hairless below the flower cluster.
Leaves: alternate, 1-2 cm broad, slightly clasping stem, hairless or nearly so, often triple-nerved. Lower leaves spatula- or lance-shaped, broadest toward tip, stalked, mostly withering soon, the upper leaves lance-shaped, becoming stalkless, but ample.
Flowerheads: pink to blue or rarely white, with 65-150 rays, 9-18 mm long and about 1 mm wide. Disk corollas 4-5 mm long. Involucre 6-9 mm high, glandular, with narrow, linear, pointed bracts. Heads 1-13 in loose clusters.
Fruits: achenes, 2-nerved or occasionally 4-nerved, with pappus of 20-30 bristles and some short outer bristles.
Open woods and openings in wooded areas, mostly in the foothills and at moderate elevations in the mountains in w. and s. parts of MT. Also from BC and SD to NM and AZ.
var. macranthus (Nutt.) Cronq.: Leaves relatively wider, the uppermost ovate. Plants less hairy, the stem commonly hairless except directly under the heads, the leaves smooth on the surface and rarely strongly edged with hairs all around, the involucre without hairs. Primarily more southern and eastern, extending commonly to c. ID and s.w. MT.
var. speciosus (Lindl.) DC.: Leaves relatively narrow, the uppermost lance-shaped. Plants relatively a little more hairy, the stem often sparsely hairy above, the uppermost leaves tending to be strongly edged with hairs all around and often with a few hairs on the surface, the involucre commonly with a few long hairs. Primarily of WA, OR, n. ID, and w. MT.
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