Shrubs and subshrubs, spreading to rounded and occasionally erect, not scapose, (0.5-)1-20 × 2-25 dm, glabrous or occasionally floccose, sometimes scabrellous, greenish, infrequently grayish. Stems spreading or erect, without persistent leaf bases, up to 2 height of plant; caudex stems absent; aerial flowering stems erect or nearly so, slender to stout, solid, not fistulose, 0.02-0.5 dm, thinly tomentose or glabrous. Leaves cauline, 1 per node, quickly deciduous; petiole 0.1-1.5 cm, floccose or glabrous; blade linear, oblanceolate or spatulate or elliptic, or oblong, (0.4-)1-2(-4) × 0.1-0.8 cm, tomentose to floccose or glabrous abaxially, floccose to thinly floccose or glabrous adaxially, margins plane. Inflorescences cymose or racemose, 1-25(-30) × 1-30(-35) cm; branches dichotomous, sometimes with secondaries suppressed, smooth or angled to ridged and grooved, glabrous or occasionally floccose or scabrous; bracts 3, scalelike, 0.3-2 mm. Peduncles absent. Involucres 1 per node, narrowly turbinate or campanulate, 0.7-3 × 0.7-4 mm, glabrous, infrequently floccose; teeth 5, erect, 0.3-0.7 mm. Flowers (1.5-)2-4 mm; perianth white, yellowish white, pink, or reddish, glabrous; tepals connate proximal 4, dimorphic, those of outer whorl obovate to orbiculate, those of inner whorl narrowly lanceolate to oblong; stamens exserted, 2-5 mm; filaments pilose proximally. Achenes light brown to brown, 2-5 mm, glabrous. As Eriogonum heermannii is here circumscribed, the number of varieties is dramatically decreased from past presentations, with E. apachense reduced to synonymy under a now greatly expanded var. argense. Also included in that variety is the more stoutly branched var. subracemosum. The southern var. heermannii of basically desert ranges and the more northern var. occidentale of the Coast Ranges in California are maintained, but their separation is more traditional than certain. The fragile and bulky nature of many dried, often poorly prepared specimens, and the tendency for leaves to fall away have made varietal identification within E. heermannii difficult.
Eriogonum heermannii varieties are food plants for Ellis's dotted-blue butterfly (Euphilotes ellisi) and the Mormon metalmark (Apodemia mormo mormo).