Stems ascending, 20–80 cm, densely puberulent and glandular-puberulent, sometimes pilose. Leaves densely glandular-puberulent; proximal 5–30 mm, margins 3-lobed, lobes 1 mm wide; distal 5–20 × 1 mm, margins entire. Inflorescences spikes, 2(or 3)-flowered, or flowers solitary; bracts 1–3, 5–10 mm, margins 3-lobed, lobes white to cream distally, linear or slightly spatulate, apex rounded to retuse. Pedicels: bracteoles 10–15 mm, margins entire. Flowers: calyx 10–15 mm, tube 1 mm, apex entire; corolla white with purple veins, apex yellow, 10–18 mm, throat 5–8 mm diam., abaxial lip 3–5 mm, ca. equal to and appressed to adaxial; stamens 4, filaments hairy, fertile pollen sacs 1 per filament, vestigial pollen sacs present. Capsules ovoid-oblong, 5–8 mm. Seeds 6–10, dark brown, ovoid, 2.5–3 mm, striate. 2n = 28.
Phenology: Flowering Jul–Sep.
Habitat: Openings, hillsides, pine-oak woodlands.
Elevation: 1400–2600 m.
Ariz., Calif., Mexico (Baja California).
Cordylanthus nevinii has relatively short inflorescence bracts, similar to those of C. rigidus subsp. brevibracteatus, which is sympatric. Cordylanthus nevinii can be distinguished by having only one fertile pollen sac per stamen and flowers much longer than the inflorescence bracts.
The corolla of Cordylanthus nevinii is very wide at the middle just proximal to the base of the adaxial lip. The flowers appear to have a pair of lateral pouches. This appearance is enhanced because the pouches are white, in contrast to the purple-veined adaxial lip.