Yellow crownbeard is a tall perennial with hairy, winged stems. Flowerheads are few (1–10 per stem), yellow, with 8–15 rays spreading horizontally and varying in length. Blooms May–October. The leaves are coarsely hairy on the upper surface, ovate-lanceolate, 2½–6 inches long, alternate, with widely spaced, small teeth.
Similar species: There are 3 other species of Verbesina in Missouri. One is white crownbeard (V. virginica), with white flowers. The other two are golden crownbeard (V. encelioides), which is uncommon and has leaves with well-defined stems, and yellow ironweed (V. alternifolia), which has 8–100 flowerheads per stem; also, its ray florets typically point downward, and tubular disc florets are relative long. Yellow crownbeard is the shortest of the four.