Perennials, 10-25(-35) cm (cespitose or ± matted); proximal indument thinning with age, whitish to grayish, lanuginose. Stems mostly 5-15+, erect to ± spreading. Leaves basal, (1-)3-11 cm; largest blades linear-cylindric to ± fusiform, 3-dimensional, 1-2-pinnately lobed; primary lobes (7-)10-18+ pairs, ± imbricate, ultimate lobes ± involute, twisted. Heads 1(-3) per stem. Peduncles mostly ascending to erect, mostly 8-25 cm. Involucres obconic to ± cylindric. Phyllaries: longest 8-13 mm; outer evidently stipitate-glandular and, sometimes, ± arachnoid, apices erect, ± rigid. Corollas 5-7 mm. Cypselae 4-6 mm; pappi: longest scales 3-4.5 mm. 2n = 12.
Flowering (Mar-)May-Jul. Exposed sandy to rocky summits, ridges, scree, talus, openings in or above conifer forests, sometimes road cuts or other recent disturbances; of conservation concern; (1100-)1500-2800 m; Calif.
Chaenactis santolinoides is known from the southern Sierra Nevada and Transverse Ranges. It is sometimes cultivated in rock gardens and may be found beyond its native range. It may be relatively recently derived from an isolated segment of C. douglasii var. alpina. The morphology of C. panamintensis (here assigned to C. douglasii var. alpina) suggests past convergence toward, or genetic influence from, C. santolinoides.