Description from Flora of China
Aplotaxis fastuosa Decaisne in Jacquemont, Voy. Inde 4(Bot.): 97. 1843; A. denticulata Candolle; A. denticulata var. glabrata Candolle; A. denticulata var. hypoleuca Candolle; Saussurea denticulata (Candolle) Wallich ex C. B. Clarke (1876), not Ledebour (1829); S. forrestii Diels; S. glabrata (Candolle) C. Shih; S. wallichii Schultz Bipontinus.
Herbs 0.6-1.5 m tall, perennial. Stem solitary, erect, simple or apically branched. Basal and lower stem leaves withered at anthesis. Middle stem leaves petiolate; petiole ca. 5 mm; leaf blade narrowly ovate-elliptic, 6-15 × 2-4.5 cm, abaxially grayish white and densely tomentose or sometimes glabrescent, adaxially green and glabrous, base rounded to broadly cuneate, margin serrulate, apex acute to acuminate. Upper stem leaves gradually smaller upward on stem. Capitula solitary at end of stem or branches, in a lax corymbiform synflorescence, large, on a ± widened peduncle. Involucre campanulate, 1.5-2.5 cm in diam. Phyllaries in 4 or 5 rows, straw-colored, margin membranous, dark brown, and erose-lacerate, apex rounded; outer phyllaries ovate, 4-8 × 4-5 mm; middle phyllaries elliptic to narrowly elliptic, 7-13 × 2-4 mm; inner phyllaries narrowly elliptic to linear, 13-15 × 1.5-2 mm. Receptacle with paleae but without alveolate bristles; paleae 1.2-1.7 cm. Corolla purple, 1.3-1.4 cm, glabrous, tube 6-8 mm, limb 5-7 mm, lobes 2.5-3 mm. Achene pale brown, obconic, 4-5 mm, ribbed, glabrous. Pappus bristles straw-colored, 7-12 mm. Fl. and fr. Aug-Oct.
This taxon is very variable with respect to the indumentum of the abaxial leaf surface, which ranges from grayish white and densely tomentose to green and glabrous, and to the shape of the peduncles, which are ± inflated below the capitulum. Saussurea forrestii, which has less dense indumentum and barely inflated peduncles, was described from material from Yunnan and accepted by S. W. Liu (Fl. Yunnan. 13: 550. 2004); and S. glabrata with glabrous leaves was recognized by C. Shih (FRPS 78(2): 84. 1999). However, as no discontinuous characters could be found that would justify separation of these taxa at species level, a broad species concept is adopted here. While the rank of variety might be appropriate, we refrain from validating a name at this rank, as long as the generic affiliation of this species is not yet clear.
Forests, forest or thicket margins, grasslands, moist meadows; 2400-4000 m. SW Sichuan, S Xizang, NW Yunnan [Bhutan, NE and NW India, N Myanmar, Nepal].