Artemisia spinescens is native to the western United States from southern + eastern California and the Great Basin, north to Idaho and Montana, and east to western Colorado and northwestern New Mexico.
Artemisia spinescens grows in scrub and other habitat on clay and gravel-rich soils. It thrives on salty soils, growing with other salt-tolerant plants such as saltbushes ('Atriplex sp.). It is adapted to very dry climates.
Artemisia spinescens is a squat shrub forming a rounded bush up to 30 to 50 centimeters in maximum height. Its tangled branches are woolly when new and thorny and rough when aged. The stem is woody and corky.
This plant is considered good forage for wild and domestic grazing animals early in the season when the foliage is new and soft. Later in the season when the plant produces large quantities of bitter volatile oils it becomes unpalatable.