Caudexes often covered with fibrous remnants of old leaves. Stems up to 80 cm tall. Leaves on sterile shoots rosulate, rosulate leaves and lower cauline leaves with petioles fused, forming sheaths 2.5-4.5 cm; blade linear to linear-lanceolate, up to 40 × 4 cm, both surfaces glabrous, margin regularly lobed, each lobe with 4 or 5 spinose teeth; upper cauline leaves similar, smaller, usually 3 per whorl, sheaths up to 8 mm, or petioles barely connate. Flowering stems erect, to 90 cm, glabrous, slightly ridged to terete below, pubescent to villous above. Inflorescence of (4-)7-9(-11) whorls, pedicellate or sessile; upper whorls confluent at anthesis, separating in fruit; involucral bracts broadly ovate to orbicular, bases markedly overlapping, adaxially sparsely hairy, abaxially villous, margin often with numerous short spiny teeth and ciliate, apex spinose; involucels tubular, 7-10 × 2.5-4 mm, glandular pubescent, spines 5-13. Flowers pedicellate. Calyx glabrous, or with short adpressed hairs on tips; lobes shallowly bifid; lobules rounded or rarely slightly apiculate; tube 4.5-6 × 2.5-4 mm at anthesis. Corolla white, becoming pink to deep red; tube 20-30 × 1-2 mm, with many glandular and a few simple hairs outside; limb 2-lipped; lobes of lower lip ± spreading, central lobe ca. 7 × 3 mm, upper lip ± spreading. Stamens inserted at throat of corolla; filaments 1-3 mm, with a tuft of hairs below anthers; staminodes minute, inserted 2-3.5 mm below mouth of corolla under anterior lip. Style slightly longer than stamens; stigma disk-shaped. Achenes rugose on abaxial side, with a deep furrow and prominent longitudinal veins on adaxial side, apex slightly obliquely truncate and crenulate. Fl. Jun-Sep, fr. Sep-Oct. 2n = 16, 34.