Plants dioecious (rarely monoecious). Stems 3-10(-15) dm, becoming reddish brown with whitish ribs exfoliating in strips, older bark dark gray. Leaves of main stems 1-2.5(-4.2) cm × 1.5-6(-10) mm; blade green, apex often whitish. Staminate flowers: perianth segments ± enclosing stamens, 1.5-2 mm; filaments shorter than anthers. Pistillate flowers: stigma protruding through opening in covering formed by accrescent bracts. Fruiting bracts wholly connate, sessile, orbicular to broadly elliptic, 7.5-14 × 6-12 mm, base often abruptly cuneate and stipelike, margins entire, apex retuse, glabrous; wing somewhat thickened near margin, yellowish green, whitish, or pink to red-tinged, smooth, glabrous. Utricles brown, 1.5-2 mm. 2n = 36.
Flowering spring-summer. Valleys, foothills, dry, alkaline or scarcely alkaline soils, sagebrush, shadscale, and creosote bush communities; 500-2400 m; Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Mont., Nev., Oreg., Utah, Wash., Wyo.
Grayia spinosa is rarely a codominant. Its fruits are still present through July.