This native wildflower is a biennial or short-lived perennial. During the 1st year, it consists of a low rosette of leaves spanning about 1' across. During the 2nd year and thereafter, it develops stems with alternate leaves and becomes about 3-8' tall. These stems are usually sparingly branched. The central stem and side stems are light green to reddish brown, terete with several longitudinal ridges, and pubescent-woolly. The alternate leaves are up to 9" long and 3" across, becoming gradually smaller as they ascend the stems. These leaves are lanceolate, oblanceolate, or elliptic in shape; their margins are entire, slightly dentate, or shallowly lobed. At the pointed tip of each lobe or dentate tooth, there is usually a spine. The upper surface of each leaf is green with appressed white hairs, while the lower surface is covered with a dense mat of white-woolly hairs. The base of each leaf is sessile or clasps its stem slightly. The basal leaves of 1st year plants are similar to the alternate leaves, except they are often more deeply pinnatifid. The upper stems terminate in individual flowerheads spanning about 2" across. Each flowerhead has a multitude of small disk florets that are pink to purplish pink. Each floret has a tubular corolla that divides into 5 slender lobes. The base of the flowerhead is surrounded by numerous floral scales (phyllaries) that partially overlap each other. Each small floral scale is lanceolate-ovate and dark green with a white midrib; it has a dark tip, where a fine spine projects outward. Underneath each flowerhead, there are 2-3 small leafy bracts with spines along their margins like the leaves. The blooming period occurs from late summer to early fall and lasts about 11½ months. The flowerheads are usually fragrant. After the blooming period, the entire plant begins to wither away and turns yellow to brown. The disk florets of the flowerheads become masses of bullet-shaped achenes with tufts of cottony white hairs. These achenes are distributed by the wind. The root system consists of a taproot. This wildflower spreads by reseeding itself.