Description from Flora of China
Herbs, perennial, 10-35 cm tall, caespitose; rhizomes robust. Stems erect, simple, sparsely to densely villous, sparsely to moderately minutely stipitate glandular. Leaves basal and cauline, rosette marcescent at anthesis; cauline leaves much reduced upward, sparsely to moderately villous, sometimes sparsely minutely stipitate glandular, 3-veined, main veins ± prominent; basal leaves rosulate, petiolate, obovate to spatulate; lower cauline leaves with petiole winged, sometimes slender, up to 11 cm; blade linear-oblong, 1-10 × 0.4-1.5 cm, base attenuate, margin entire, sometimes undulate, apex rounded; middle cauline leaves sessile, oblong-lanceolate to linear, base attenuate. Capitula solitary, terminal, 3-3.5(-5.5) cm in diam.; bracts linear to linear-lanceolate, 1-veined. Involucres hemispheric, 1.5-2 × 0.6-1 cm; phyllaries 2- or 3-seriate, equal or subequal, rarely unequal, lanceolate to oblong or oblanceolate, 7-10 × 1.5-2.2 mm, abaxially sparsely villous to densely lanate (crosswalls sometimes purple to black), sometimes minutely stipitate glandular, margin sparsely to densely ciliate, apex rounded or obtuse to acute or acuminate; outer phyllaries leaflike or base sometimes hardened; inner phyllaries leaflike distally, margin whitish, sometimes purple-red. Ray florets 26-60, purple to blue or reddish, tube glabrous, sometimes sparsely minutely stipitate glandular near junction with lamina, lamina 10-15 × 2-2.5 mm, glabrous, eglandular; disk florets yellow, 5.5-8.5 mm, limb funnelform, 4.5-6.5 mm, proximally sparsely hairy, sparsely minutely stipitate glandular, lobes spreading, equal, narrowly triangular, 1-1.5 mm. Achenes obovoid, compressed, ca. 3 mm, 2-4-ribbed, moderately to densely strigillose, distally sparsely to moderately minutely stipitate glandular. Pappus 4-seriate, white, barbellate throughout; outermost bristles few, slender, 0.5-1.8 mm; outer bristles slender, 3-4 mm; inner bristles 5-5.5 mm, acute; innermost bristles 6.5-7 mm, weakly clavate. Fl. Jun-Aug, fr. Jul-Sep. 2n = 18, 27, 35+1 fragm., 36, 37.
This species is very variable. Many subspecies and varieties have been recognized by previous authors. Specimens from Xiaowutai Shan (Hebei) and Taibai Shan (Shaanxi) that were identified by Handel-Mazzetti and Onno as Aster alpinus var. dolomiticus (Beck) Onno do not match the type of that name from Europe. The typical variety appears to be European and does not reach Siberia; specimens identified as A. alpinus var. alpinus in China belong to A. alpinus var. vierhapperi, the variety widespread from Siberia to North America.
Gansu, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Nei Mongol, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Xinjiang [Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan; SW Asia, Europe, W North America].