Prenanthes altissima is recognized by its narrow involucres with 5 pale green, glabrous phyllaries, (4–)5(–6) florets, and pale yellow to greenish yellow corollas. Pappi in this species are most commonly whitish or pale yellow. Specimens with reddish brown to orange pappi have been recognized as var. cinnamomea, found in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Missouri. Specimens with densely hairy stems and pale yellow pappi have been recognized as var. hispidula, found mostly in New York, New England, and adjacent Canada.