Plants cespitose, not matted. Stems erect, simple, 10-70 cm, glabrous. Leaves: sheath 3-6 mm, 1(-2) times as long as stem diam.; blade lanceolate to ovate, (1.5-) 2.5-10 cm, green, margins finely ciliate. Inflorescences usually dense, 5-20-flowered heads, or rarely flowers solitary, axillary; bracts lanceolate, equaling or longer than calyx, herbaceous, apex acute; bracteoles 4 (or 6), green, ovate, 4-1 4 times as long as calyx, herbaceous, apex long-aristate in distal 3(- 2). Pedicels 0.1-2 mm. Flowers subsessile; calyx 40-veined, (10-)12-19(-21) mm, glabrous (lobe margins may be ciliate), lobes ovate to short-tapered, 2-7 mm; petals purple, red, spotted with white, or pink or white with (or without) dark center, bearded, 4-10 mm, apex dentate. Capsules 10-13 mm, equaling calyx length. Seeds 2-2.5(-2.7) mm. 2n = 30 (Europe).