Herbs, erect to spreading, 1-4(-5) dm, glabrous or tomentose, grayish. Stems: aerial flowering stems erect, 0.5-1 dm, glabrous or tomentose. Leaves basal; petiole 0.5-3 cm, tomentose; blade suborbiculate, 0.5-2 × 0.5-2 cm, densely white-tomentose abaxially, mostly tomentose and grayish to greenish adaxially. Inflorescences cymose, infrequently distally uniparous due to suppression of secondary branches, open to diffuse, 5-35(-45) × 5-35(-4) cm; branches glabrous or tomentose; bracts 0.5-3 × 1-3 mm. Peduncles absent. Involucres somewhat appressed to branches, turbinate, 1-1.5 × 0.5-1 mm, glabrous or tomentose; teeth 5, erect, 0.2-0.3 mm. Flowers 1.5-2 mm; perianth white to rose, minutely glandular, rarely glabrous; tepals monomorphic, oblong to oblong-obovate, somewhat constricted near middle and flaring adaxially; stamens included, 1-1.5 mm; filaments pilose proximally. Achenes brown, 3-gonous, 1-1.5 mm. Eriogonum baileyi is closely related to and sometimes difficult to distinguish from E. elegans of the Inner Coast Ranges of California, and E. brachyanthum along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada, especially in Inyo and Mono counties. However, these species do not seem to intergrade. Eriogonum baileyi often grows with other annual wild buckwheats (especially E. ampullaceum and E. brachyanthum), so care must be taken not to make mixed collections.
The Kawaiisu people of southern California pounded the seeds into a meal, which they ate dry, and also mixed with water to serve as a beverage (M. L. Zigmond 1981).