Plants shrubs, subshrubs, or herbs, spreading to erect, not scapose, (1) 1.5–5 dm tall, 2–5 (8) dm across, glabrous or rarely floccose to tomentose, green to grayish; stems spreading or erect, usually without persistent leaf bases, up to 1⁄2 or more height of plant, the caudex stems absent or matted to spreading, the aerial flowering stems spreading to erect, slender, solid, not fistulose, 0.3–3 dm long, glabrous or, rarely, floccose to tomentose, tomentose among leaves; leaves basal or cauline on proximal 1⁄2 of stem, 1 per node, the petioles 0.5–2 cm long, tomentose to floccose or glabrous, the blades narrowly lanceolate or oblanceolate to elliptic, 1.5–7 (9) cm long, 0.2–2 cm wide, velvety- to densely white-tomentose abaxially, sparsely tomentose to thinly floccose or glabrous and green adaxially, the margins plane or occasionally crenulate, inflorescences cymose, dense to more commonly open, 2–25 cm long, 2–20 cm wide, the branches dichotomous, glabrous or, rarely, floccose, the bracts 3, scalelike, usually triangular, and 1–3 mm long, or occasionally leaflike, 8–30 mm long, and otherwise similar to leaf blades; peduncles absent or erect, 0.1–0.8 cm long, glabrous; involucres 1 per node or 2–5 per cluster, turbinate to turbinate-campanulate, 2.5–4 mm long, (1.3) 1.5–3.5 (4) mm wide, glabrous, the teeth 5, erect, 0.4–0.9 mm long; flowers 2–3.5 (4) mm long, the perianth white, glabrous, the hypanthium 1⁄4-1⁄3 length of perianth, the tepals monomorphic, oblanceolate, elliptic to oblong or obovate, the stamens exserted, 2–4 mm long, the filaments pilose proximally; achenes light brown to brown, 2–3 mm long, glabrous except (typically) for slightly papillate beaks.
Flowering Jun-Oct. Heavy gumbo clay soil or (at higher elevations) sandy-loam to gravelly or rocky soil and outcrops, mixed grassland, saltbush, blackbrush, and sagebrush communities, pinyon-juniper and montane conifer woodlands; 1400–2900 m; Rocky Mountains and adjacent mountain ranges and foothills of Colorado (Archuleta, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, El Paso, Fremont, Garfield, Gunnison, Jefferson, La Plata, Las Animas, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Pueblo, Rio Blanco, Saguache and San Miguel cos.), northern New Mexico (Colfax, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan and Taos cos.) and eastern Utah (Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Uintah cos.). Highly variable.
The variation in the size, shape and distribution of leaves has been used to distinguish varieties of E. lonchophyllum. At their extremes, the differences are remarkable.