Man. S. Calif. Bot., 483, 601. 1935.
Stems erect or ascending, 10–80 cm, puberulent, glabrescent. Leaves puberulent, sometimes scabrous; proximal 10–40 mm, margins 3–7-lobed, lobes 1 mm wide; distal 5–25 × 1 mm, margins entire. Inflorescences capitate spikes, 3–14-flowered; bracts 5–10, 5–20 mm, margins 5–7-lobed, lobes purple or yellow-green, linear to filiform. Pedicels: bracteoles 10–20 mm, margins entire. Flowers: calyx 10–20 mm, tube 1–3 mm, apex entire or 2-fid, cleft 0–0.5 mm; corolla pink to lavender-pink, usually spotted with purple, 10–20 mm, throat 4–6 mm diam., abaxial lip pink or yellow, 3–6 mm, shorter than and appressed to adaxial; stamens 4, filaments hairy, fertile pollen-sacs 2 per filament, equal. Capsules oblong-lanceoloid, 7–10 mm. Seeds 10–15, pale-brown, ovoid, 1.5–2 mm, reticulate.
Subspecies 2 (2 in the flora).
Cordylanthus eremicus is similar to C. wrightii, which also has relatively short, dense spikes and inflorescence bracts palmately three- to seven-lobed. Cordylanthus eremicus can be distinguished from C. wrightii by its gray to white hairs.