Plants cespitose, in small and medium-sized clumps; rhizomes short. Culms erect, not stiff, 15-90 cm. Leaves: sheaths pale brown abaxially, inner band thin, hyaline, sometimes slightly red tinged, concave at summit; ligules slightly longer than wide; blades pale green to gray-green flat, 10-20(-30) cm × (1.5-)2-4 mm, subequal to shorter than culms, not stiff. Inflorescences 2-15 cm × 5-10 mm; proximal bracts shorter than to exceeding spikes; distal bracts usually scalelike. Spikes 4-8, gynecandrous, proximal ± remote, distal spikes approximate, sometimes flexuous, containing (5-)10-20(-30) perigynia suborbicular to oblong, 3-12 × 3-5 mm; terminal spike staminate for less than 1/2 of length, often clavate due to more conspicuous staminate part. Pistillate scales hyaline with green, 3-veined center when young, usually brownish tinged in age, broadly ovate, subequal to, not concealing perigynia, apex obtuse to acutish. Perigynia appressed-ascending, gray-green, becoming yellowish brown, obscurely many-veined, elliptic-ovate, 1.8-3 × 1.2-1.7 mm, widest near middle, membranous; beak abaxial suture inconspicuous, small marginal teeth. Achenes pale brown, oblong-obovate, 1.25-1.5 × 1-1.25 mm, dull to slightly glossy. 2n = 56.
Tufted, 2-6 dm; lvs mostly somewhat glaucous or grayish-green in life, clustered near the base, often shorter than the stems, ±flat, 1.5-3.5 mm wide; bracts inconspicuous, or the lowest ones setaceous-tipped and surpassing the spikes; spikes 4-8, gynaecandrous, 5-10 mm, sessile, the upper approximate, the lower usually somewhat remote, silvery-greenish to pale grayish or pale-stramineous; pistillate scales mostly shorter than the perigynia, these mostly (10-)15-30, ascending (the short beaks not interrupting the outline of the spike), mostly 1.8-2.5 mm, planoconvex, not thin-edged, minutely rough-textured, somewhat corky-thickened below, not especially thin-walled distally, elliptic or elliptic-ovate, with a beak-apiculation to 0.5 mm, evidently but rather finely nerved on both faces, the ventral nerves fewer than the dorsal; dorsal suture short and inconspicuous, to ca 0.4(-0.7) mm, or practically obsolete; achene lenticular, filling the perigynium; 2n=54, 56. Swamps and bogs; circumboreal, s. to Va., O., Minn., Ariz., and Calif.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.