Annuals, 4-30 cm. Stems 1-3+, ascending to erect (stout), branched from bases and distally, ± leafy, glabrous. Cauline leaves: proximal obovate to oblanceolate, pinnately lobed (lobes 2-6 pairs), not fleshy, ultimate margins entire or dentate, faces glabrous; distal not notably reduced (narrowly ovate with 5-10 narrow teeth or lobes). Calyculi 0. Involucres narrowly to broadly campanulate, 9-12 × 4-10 mm. Phyllaries 31-49 in 5-6+ series (midstripes green or reddish), broadly ovate (outermost) to lance-oblong or lance-linear, unequal, hyaline margins 0.6-1 mm wide, faces glabrous. Receptacles usually not bristly. Florets 39-133; corollas light yellow, 12-19 mm; outer ligules exserted 6-11 mm. Cypselae ± prismatic or columnar, 1.3-2.1 mm, ribs extending to (and just beyond) apices, 5 more prominent than others; pappi persistent, of 15-20, irregular, ± deltate teeth (often hidden by apices of cypselae) plus 0(-1) bristles. Pollen 70-100% 4-porate. 2n = 28. Flowering Mar-Jun. Open areas between shrubs, on ridges, knife-edges; of conservation concern; 0-30 m; Calif. Malacothrix squalida is known only from Middle Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands.