Plants 3-50 cm; herbage loosely tomentose when young, ± glabrescent. Stems arising from slender rhizomes, usually simple or few, ascending. Leaves basal and cauline, smaller distally, sessile, blades linear to narrowly elliptic, 3-12(-25) cm, bases acute, margins entire or remotely dentate, apices acute. Heads 2-10+ in open or crowded corymbiform arrays; (peduncles 1-5 cm). Involucres 9-14 mm. Phyllaries strongly unequal, the outer ± ovate, inner lanceolate, abaxial faces dark green, usually also tinged dark purplish, pilose or loosely tomentose; tips of outer and mid phyllaries acute. Receptacles scaly. Florets 8-22; corollas purple, 11-15 m, tubes 6-7.5 mm, throats 2-2.5 mm, lobes 3-5. mm; anthers darker purple. Cypselae 3-4 mm; pappus bristles brownish, outer 1-2 mm, the inner 9-10 mm. Extreme forms of the varieties of Saussurea angustifolia are distinctive, ranging from slender, erect, subglabrous specimens of var. angustifolia to dwarf, densely pubescent forms of vars. viscida and yukonensis. The extremes are connected by intermediates. As is indicated by the synonymy, little unanimity exists in the interpretation of these taxa. I have chosen to follow S. L. Welsh (1974) in treating S. densa as a variety of S. angustifolia rather than as a distinct species. The extent to which the differences among these taxa are genetic or environmentally induced has not been investigated.