Nuttall's sandwort is densely tufted perennial that is woody below that forms low mats up to 30 cm wide. The stems are trailing with the flowering branches turned upwards and up to 3-10 cm high. The leafy flowering stems are very brittle, shattering readily at the nodes. The leaves are linear-awl-shaped with 3 nerves and sharp pointed. They spread from the stems and are from 6-12 mm long. The herbage varies from glandular-haired to glandular-pilose.
The inflorescence consists of compact cymes of 2-7 (occasionally more) flowers with pedicels from 3-10 cm long. The stiff sepals are broadly lanceolate, acuminate, and sharply tipped. They measure 4-5 mm long. The oblong, white petals are shorter to slightly longer than the sepals. Each of the petals ends with an acute tip (Notice photos on this page.). 3 styles arise from the ovoid, green pistil. 10 stamens are present.
variety fragilis: The leaves are arched like a bow or recurved or spreading above the base. The leaves are yellowish-green. The plants are thickly glandular-haired, the hairs shorter and straighter than in the variety below. Variety fragilis may be found from the higher peaks of Grant and Malheur counties in southeastern Oregon south to western Nevada and Mono County in California.
variety nuttallii: The leaves are straight and upright or ascending. The leaves are not very yellowish. Plants are glandular-haired or bear long, soft, straight hairs that are longer than the variety above. Variety nuttallii may be found through the Cascade Mts. from British Columbia to Oregon and in the Rocky Mts. from Alberta to Utah.
Nuttall's sandwort may be found in open, gravelly to talus soils from the foothills to well into alpine habitats in the mountains.
As a species, Nuttall's sandwort may be found from southern British Columbia south through the Cascade Mts to the coast range of northern California and further south through the Sierra Nevada to southern California. It may be found eastward to the Rocky Mts. of Alberta, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Variety fragilis may be found from the higher peaks of Grant and Malheur counties in southeastern Oregon south to western Nevada and Mono County in California.