Although S. lanatus is a rather polymorphic species it may be recognised by a combination of the following characters; the ellipsoid pollen presenter, the semi-terete linear leaves, flattened to slightly concave on the upper surface, the lanate perianth and the glabrous cylindrical fruits, narrowly emarginate at the base.
Erect or sprawling shrublet to 80 cm. Leaves linear, adpressed, glabrous or hairy, 5-18 mm long, margins scabrid. Flower heads in globose clusters, 10-30 mm diam., pink to purple with darker tips.
A low, much branched rounded shrub, or slender erect and sparsely branched, frequently sprawling or stunted, to 0-75 m tall. Stems terete, glabrous or pilose, often with an indumentum of short white incurved hairs. Leaves imbricate or widely spreading, 5-18 mm long, semi-terete, with a flattened or slightly concave upper surface, imbricate, spreading, or closely adpressed to the stem. Leaf surface glabrous or sparsely to densely covered with long spreading hairs becoming scabrous later. Inflorescence terminal globose, 1-3 cm in diam., usually single, rarely more than one inflorescence terminating a branch. Involucres usually 4 flowered, frequently 8 or 9 flowered, rarely 5, 6, or 7 flowered. Bracts and bracteoles very variable in form, lanceolate to broadly ovate, outer surface glabrous or sparsely to densely pubescent. Perianth 8-12 mm long. Perianth limbs elliptic densely lanate. Perianth claws filiform, densely lanate to villous. Perianth tube 2-3 mm long, cylindrical, puberulous to sericeous. Style filiform, 8-10 mm long. Pollen presenter ellipsoid to cylindric. Ovary ellipsoidal, 1 mm long, pubescent to glabrous. Hypogynous scales 1 mm long, subulate, yellow when fresh. Fruits cylindrical, glabrous, 5 mm long, narrowly emarginate at the base. Flowering extends over a period of six months, from early spring to late autumn, with a peak in December. The flower colour is usually white or pale pink but a form with very deep pink perianth segments is sometimes encountered.
Throughout its distribution range S. lanatus may be observed on most of the higher peaks. Altitude is apparently an important factor in the distribution of this species for populations are normally only found above 1524 m Apart from altitude, S. lanatus does not appear to have any special ecological requirements, since populations are found on a variety of habitats ranging from moist seepage areas to hot, rocky, north facing slopes. Small colonies are often found on exposed buttresses growing wedged between sandstone boulders and sprawling over ledges. In these wind-swept situations the plants tend to develop a prostrate growth habit.