Herbs, monocarpic, to 30 cm tall in flower, (often rather taller in fruit), overall with fulvous or yellowish, firm, sharp, spreading, straw-colored bristles, 5-10 mm, generally dark blackish or purplish black and somewhat enlarged at base. Taproot plump, prolonged, terete, to 20 cm or longer, 1-2 cm in diam. at top. Leaves all basal, deciduous; petiole 1-11 cm; blade lanceolate to elliptic-oblanceolate or oblanceolate, 5-12 × 1-3.6 cm, both surfaces with fulvous or yellowish compressed spines, base attenuate to petiole, margin entire or undulate, occasionally slightly lobed or toothed, apex obtuse or acute. Flowers solitary on scape, 4-8.2 cm in diam., semi-nutant, to 29 per plant, erect, these sometimes partly agglomerated especially in lower 1/2; scapes green or purplish, 10-27 cm, firm, with fulvous spreading bristles. Flower buds nodding, globose, 8-12 mm in diam. Sepals adaxially bristly. Petals 5-10, indigo, pale to deep blue, purplish, lilac, violet-blue, or occasionally wine-purple, broadly obovate, 2-4 × 1.5-3.4 cm. Filaments of similar color as petals, often rather darker, filiform, 10-14 mm; anthers yellow or orange-yellow, oblong, 1.5-2 mm. Ovary conical, with fulvous compressed- or inclined spines; styles 6-7 mm, slightly exceeding stamens; stigmas yellow, conical, 2.5-4 mm. Capsule obovoid or elliptic-oblong, rarely broadly ovate, 1.2-2 × 0.6-1.1 cm, with rubiginous or fulvous spreading spines, spine bases thickened, usually 3-5-valvate to 1/3 its length from apex. Seeds reniform, seed coat clathrate-tessellate. Fl. Jun-Sep.
Grassy slopes, scree, rock ledges, stabilized moraines; 3600-5400 m. W Gansu, Qinghai, W Sichuan, Xizang [Bhutan, NE India, N Myanmar, Nepal].