Taprooted annual or winter annual (leaves produced one year and flowers the next), with white latex, stems single or few, finely ridged. Flowerheads solitary or rarely paired, terminal, like those of dandelion but bright sulphur yellow; inner florets appear dark-flecked from brownish fused anther bases, which surround the style and stigma. Blooms May–October. Basal leaves either entire or pinnatifid (like dandelion leaves), and often disappear by flowering time. The stem leaves, if present, few, alternate, growing to 6 inches long, lanceolate, oblong, entire, or pinnatifid; toothed, partly clasping, sessile. Fruits in dandelion-like puffball.
Similar species: This is the only Pyrrhopappus in Missouri. Other “false dandelions” include 5 species of Krigia and prairie dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata). Plus there are 2 species of “true dandelions” (genus Taraxacum) in Missouri, including the common dandelion familiar to all.