Perennials, 30-80(-100) cm; rhizomatous, fibrous-rooted, caudices relatively thick. Stems erect, glabrous or sparsely hirsuto-pilose (hairs 0.5-1 mm), often minutely glandular distally. Leaves basal (usually withering by flowering) and cauline; basal blades oblanceolate-spatulate, 30-80(-150) × 4-18(-28) mm, margins entire, often ciliate (main veins sometimes also), faces glabrous, eglandular or distal sparsely minutely glandular; cauline blades ovate to ovate-lanceolate, oblong-lanceolate, or lanceolate, nearly even-sized distally or sometimes mid largest (continuing to immediately below heads, bases usually clasping to subclasping). Heads (2-)4-20 in corymbiform arrays. Involucres 6-9 × 11-22 mm. Phyllaries in 2-3(-4) series, usually glabrous, sometimes sparsely hirsuto-pilose, minutely glandular. Ray florets 75-150; corollas blue to lavender, rarely whitish, 8-16 mm (mostly 1 mm wide), laminae slightly coiling at least at tips. Disc corollas 4-5 mm. Cypselae 1.5-1.8 mm, 2(-4)-nerved, faces sparsely strigose; pappi: outer of setae, inner of 20-30 bristles.
The population in Baja California is disjunct from the closest range in Arizona and northern Nevada.
Plants glabrous and glandular on the phyllaries, stems, and leaves have been recognized as var. macranthus; they intergrade with hairier forms and do not show a coherent geographic pattern. Plants commonly identified as Erigeron subtrinervis var. conspicuus usually have stems sparsely hirsuto-pilose with hairs 1-1.5 mm, and the leaves commonly are ciliate on the margins and veins. As implied in the nomenclatural combination by Breitung, those plants are more similar to E. speciosus than to E. subtrinervis, and they apparently show part of the greater variability of E. speciosus in the northwestern part of its range (Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming), where more typical plants also occur. Erigeron speciosus and E. subtrinervis are sympatric over large parts of their ranges and appear to be at least partially reproductively isolated entities, although intermediates are frequently encountered.
FNA 2006, Kearney and Peebles 1969, McDougall 1973
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Subshrub General: Herbaceous annuals, stems simple or branching, to 80 cm tall, glabrous to hairy, often minutely glandular distally, arising from a woody caudex. Leaves: Alternate, mostly 2 nerved, faces glabrous, margins and main veins more or less ciliate, basal leaves oblanceolate to broadly spatulate, petioled, usually withering by flowering, cauline leaves not greatly reduced, clasping. Flowers: Heads radiate, the rays usually blue, sometimes lavender or rarely white, 75-150, 9-18 mm long, coiling at least at the tips, the disk yellow, the involucres 9-10 mm high, glandular, the phyllaries unequal, usually glabrous, sometimes minutely glandular, in 2-4 series, heads borne in groups of 1-10. Fruits: Achenes 2-4 nerved, hairy. Pappus sparse, of subequal capillary bristles, the inner of 20-30 long bristles, the outer of few, short, stiff bristles. Ecology: Found on dry or moist, gravelly or loamy soil, in oak thickets and pine woods, prairies, yellow pine, pine-fir, spruce-fir, and aspen-spruce communities, from 6,000-9,500 ft (1829-2896 m); flowering July-October. Distribution: Alberta and British Columbia south to New Mexico and Arizona. Notes: Look for this species under Erigeron macranthus in older texts. Ethnobotany: Used as a contraceptive and for menstrual pain. Etymology: Erigeron means Early-Old-Man, as named by Theophrastus, while speciosus means showy. Synonyms: None, but var. macranthus has one: Erigeron macranthus; and var. speciosus has one: Erigeron speciosus var. typicus Editor: SBuckley, 2010, LCrumbacher