Perennials, 6-30 cm, cespitose; with thick, woody, branched caudices. Stems 1-10+, decumbent to ascending or erect (grayish brown, slender), sparsely strigoso-hispid, ± scabrous. Leaves (dark bright green) firm, much reduced distally, margins entire, apices acute, mucronate, faces usually glabrous, sometimes sparsely strigoso-hispid; basal withering by flowering (new vernal rosettes often present), sessile, blades (1-3-nerved) linear-oblanceolate, 20-40 × 5-30 mm, bases attenuate, margins scabro-ciliate; proximal cauline sometimes persistent, sessile, blades linear to linear-lanceolate, 10-40 × 5-20 mm, bases sometimes subclasping, margins entire, scabrous; distal sessile, blades linear to linear-lanceolate, 20-40 × 2-3 mm, bases cuneate, margins entire, coarsely cililate-spinulose, apices acute, white-spinulose, faces sometimes stipitate-glandular. Heads in ± narrowly racemiform to paniculiform arrays, branches sometimes initially patent, then spreading to ascending. Peduncles sparsely hispido-strigose, ± densely stipitate-glandular, bracts ± ascending, linear to lance-oblong, grading into phyllaries. Involucres campanulate, 4-7 mm. Phyllaries in 3-4 series, lanceolate, unequal, bases ± indurate, margins narrowly to widely scarious, hyaline except apically, sometimes ciliolate, often stipitate-glandular, green zones lanceolate to diamond-shaped, covering distal portion (outer), apices acuminate, spreading to reflexed, faces glabrous, moderately to densely short-stipitate-glandular. Ray florets 10-20; corollas light to dark lavender to purple, laminae 5-10 × 1-2 mm. Disc florets (7-)10-30; corollas yellow becoming reddish purple, 3.5-5 mm, throats narrowly funnelform, lobes narrowly triangular, 0.4-0.7 mm. Cypselae brown (nerves stramineous), obovoid, ± compressed, 1.5-2.5 mm, 7-10-nerved, faces moderately strigillose; pappi cinnamon to sordid, sometimes purplish-tinged, 4.5-5 mm. 2n = 10. Flowering (Aug-)Sep-Oct. Open, sandy, silty, shaly, often rocky soils, eroded limestone or sandstone outcrops, mixed-grass prairies, pastures, roadsides; 600-2000 m; Colo., Kans., Nebr., N.Mex., Okla., Tex. Symphyotrichum fendleri has been reported from Mexico (Chihuahua) [by C. H. Schultz-Bipontinus (1856) fide G. L. Nesom (pers. comm.)], but its occurrence in Mexico remains to be confirmed.