Saussurea angustifolia is a perennial herb with purple flowers and linear leaves that occurs widely across Denali from boreal muskegs into alpine tundra. Plants grow 10-40 cm tall from a woody rhizome. Leaves are all attached to the stem, dark green, linear to lanceolate in outline, with entire or irregularly toothed margins, and often covered in white wooly hair. The stem is upright, dark purple, bearing numerous (2-10) flower heads. The inflorescence can vary from densely packed (appearing like a single flower) to an open, branched flat-topped arrangement (corymb). Flower heads contain only disc flowers with purple corollas. The stigmas are dark purple and exserted from the petals. The fruit is a single-seeded achene with a tuft of tawny hairs (pappus). Saussurea angustifolia is a distinctive species, the combination of linear leaves and purple Aster-like flowering heads is diagnostic. The park also has S. angustifolia var. yukonensis, a scree-slope and tundra inhabiting close relative which is tufted, low-growing and has broader leaves.
Saussurea angustifolia flowers mid-late summer.
S. angustifolia is monoecious and insect pollinated. Seeds have a tuft of hairs and are wind disseminated.
Saussurea angustifolia is an amphi-Beringian species with an arctic-alpine distribution. In North America this species ranges from Alaska across northernmost Canada and south into British Columbia. In Alaska, Saussurea angustifolia occurs statewide except is absent or rare in the southeastern panhandle and the Aleutian Islands. In Denali, this species occurs in suitable habitat park-wide on both sides of the Alaska Range.
In Denali, S. angustifolia is found at elevations from 174 m to 1667 m, with an average site elevation of 829 m. It is found on slopes ranging from flat to 41 degrees with an average slope angle of 8 degrees. This species seemed to slightly prefer north-facing slopes.