Perennials, 1-3 cm (± pulvinate). Stems ± erect; internodes 0.1-1 mm, ± hirsute to strigose or glabrate. Leaves basal and cauline, blades ± spatulate to narrowly oblanceolate or linear, 12-40(-75) × 2-6+ mm, not fleshy, faces ± strigillose. Heads ± sessile (usually nestled among rosette leaves). Involucres ± hemispheric, (10-)12-25+ mm diam. Phyllaries 30-45(-60) in 4-6+ series, the longer narrowly lanceolate or linear to subulate, (10-)12-14(-17) mm (l/w = 6-9), apices obtuse to acute, abaxial faces sparsely strigillose or glabrate. Ray florets 11-40; corollas white adaxially, laminae (9-)12-18+ mm, glabrous abaxially. Disc florets 100-150+; corollas 6.5-9(-12+) mm. Cypselae 4(-6+) mm, faces hairy, hair tips glochidiform; pappi persistent; on ray cypselae 20-30 setiform scales 6-8+ mm; on disc cypselae 20-30+ setiform scales 6.5-11+ mm. 2n = 18.
Flowering Mar-Jun(-Aug). Openings in pine forests, meadows, gravelly hills, sandy soils; (1300-)1600-2300(-3300) m; Alta., Man., Sask.; Ariz., Colo., Idaho, Kans., Mont., Nebr., Nev., N.Mex., N.Dak., Okla., S.Dak., Tex., Utah, Wyo.; Mexico (Chihuahua).
FNA 2006, Kearney and Peebles 1969, McDougall 1973, Heil et al. 2013, Allred and Ivey 2013
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Cushion-like perennial herbs, to 3 cm tall, from a branching woody caudex; plants essentially lacking a stem, with leaves and flowers emerging directly from the caudex. Leaves: Basal leaves in crowded tufts; blades spatulate to narrowly oblanceolate, to 5 cm long and 2-6 mm wide, with entire margins and strigose to strigose-sericeous surfaces. Flowers: Flower heads relatively large, radiate, white or pinkish with yellow centers, sessile or on short peduncles up to 3 cm long; involucres hemispheric, 1-4 cm wide and 1-2 cm high, the bracts (phyllaries) in several graduated series, linear-lanceolate with scarious (papery) ciliate margins; ray florets 20-40 per flower head, the laminae (ray petals) 1-2 cm long, white or pinkish, often with a darker pink stripe on the back; disc florets yellow, often pink-or purple-tipped. Fruits: Achenes 4-6 mm long, hairy, the fertile achenes orange at maturity; ray and disc achenes topped with a pappus bristle-like scales, 6-11 mm long. Ecology: Found on gravelly or sandy soils on open slopes, openings in pine forests, meadows, gravelly hills, and mesas, from 4,500-7,500 ft (1372-2286 m); flowers April-August. Distribution: Alberta to Manitoba; south through ID, ND, and MN to NV, AZ, NM, TX, and MEX. Notes: This genus is very close to both Aster and Erigeron, but the pappus is not composed of capillary bristles, but rather several to many rigid bristles or short scales. It is also set apart from Erigeron by the phyllaries, which are in Erigeron are all equal or subequal in length, but in Townsendia are graduated lengths (i.e. outer phyllaries are shorter). Good identifiers for this species are the fact that the plants are cushion or mat-like and strictly acaulescent, meaning that they have no stems; the dense clusters of narrow leaves which are slightly wider at the tip than at the base; and the disproportionately large daisy-like flower heads which are nestled low among the leaves. Similar to T. lepidotes but that species has narrower leaves, 1-2 mm wide and smaller flower heads. Ethnobotany: The plant was chewed or an infusion was taken to ease delivery of a baby; a decoction of the roots was given to tired horses; and the plant was used ceremonially. Etymology: Townsendia is named for David Townsend (1787-1858) an amateur American botanist; while exscapa means stem-less. Synonyms: Aster excapus, Townsendia intermedia, T. sericea Editor: LCrumbacher 2011, AHazelton 2017