Perennials, 25-80 cm, from rhizomes or stolons. Stems 1-several, erect, simple or sparingly branched, villous with septate hairs and thinly arachnoid-tomentose with long, simple hairs. Leaves thinly villous and ± tomentose, glabrate; proximal leaves winged-petiolate, blades 10-30 cm, margins entire or remotely dentate to pinnately lobed; mid and distal leaves sessile, blades decurrent, ovate to oblong or lanceolate, entire or remotely denticulate. Heads radiant, borne singly or in few-headed corymbiform arrays; (peduncles to 7 cm). Involucres ovoid to ± campanulate, 20-25 mm. Principal phyllaries: bodies greenish, ovate to lanceolate, scarious-margined, appendages appressed, brown to black, unarmed, decurrent on phyllary margins, pectinate-fringed, puberulent; innermost phyllaries sometimes unappendaged. Florets 35-60+; sterile florets 10-20, corollas blue (white, purple, or pink), 2.5-4.5 cm, corolla tube elongate. Disc florets 25-40+; corollas purple, ca. 20 mm; anthers dark blue-purple. Cypselae ± brown, 5-6 mm, sericeous; pappi of bristles 0.5-1.5 mm. 2n = 24 (Germany), 40 (Russia), 44 (France).
Flowering summer (Jun-Aug). Escaped from cultivation, roadsides, woodlands, sagebrush scrub; 0-1400 m; introduced; St. Pierre and Miquelon; B.C., N.B., Nfld. and Labr. (Nfld.), Ont., Que.; Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Mich., Minn., Mont., N.H., N.Y., Oreg., Pa., Utah, Wash., Wis.; Europe.
Centaurea montana is a very handsome plant, native to the mountains of Europe, now widely cultivated as an ornamental.