A branching, usually single-stemmed perennial often found in colonies. Flowerheads terminal on a long stalk with few leaves, small, yellow. Ray flowers few, looking somewhat ragged. Blooms April–June. Leaves mostly basal, rounded to spoon-shaped, toothed, the leaf tissue conspicuously continued into the petiole, to 3½ inches long. Stem leaves few, sessile, often deeply lobed.
Similar species: Eight Packera species occur in Missouri, plus a number of hybrids having intermediate characteristics that make identification tricky. Golden ragwort (P. aurea) also has mostly basal leaves, but they are heart-shaped and pointed at the tip, not spoon-shaped. Prairie ragwort (P. plattensis) has mostly basal leaves, but they are shaped like a pointed paddle. It is scattered statewide. Butterweed (P. glabella) lacks basal leaves; its stem leaves are pinnate, deeply lobed, with rounded teeth. It is found on floodplains of big rivers in southeast and east-central Missouri.