Stiff goldenrod is a member of the Aster (Asteraceae) family. Stiff goldenrod is a coarse plant that can grow to 5 feet tall. It is usually somewhat hairy, with unbranched lower stems and broad, thick leaves. Large basal leaves (up to 10 inches long and 5 inches wide) are on long stalks with weakly toothed edges. Stem leaves are alternately arranged and are progressively smaller upward. Flower heads are a rounded to flattened cluster at the top of the plant, with the branch below each head having many small leaflike bracts.
Blooming in late summer to fall, each flower head is about 1/2 inch wide with 7 to 14 yellow, petal-like ray flowers surrounding the central disk flowers, which have protruding threadlike stigmas. Stiff goldenrod has larger flower heads than most goldenrods.
This plant is frequent in well drained prairies throughout the tallgrass region. It contains deep roots that allow it to survive severe overgrazing and other disturbances. It can become abundant in old fields and pastures that were formerly prairie.