Houndstongue is a short-lived perennial or biennial forb. It produces rosettes in the first year and bolts a stout, erect stem, that is 1 to 4 feet tall by mid-summer of the second year. Then it flowers and produces fruit. Flowers are reddish-purple (occasionally white) and droop slightly from densely clustered panicles. The five rounded petals are cupped by five sepals covered with long, soft white hairs. Flowering occurs from May to July. The simple leaves are lance or oblong shaped, with a smooth edge and no teeth or lobes. Leaves are alternate, 1 to 12 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide. The leaf tip is sharply pointed, like a hound’s tongue, yet are covered with long-soft white hairs. Leaves often appear dusty and insect-ridden. A thick, dark, woody taproot can reach 3 to 4 feet deep.