Plants densely cespitose, from short rhizomes. Culms erect or ascending, 7-27 cm × 0.4-0.7 mm; vegetative shoots taller than culms, (1.4-)1.7-3.7(-4.9) times as tall as tallest flowering culm; blades of vegetative shoots 1-3.5 times wider than bract blades. Leaves: basal sheaths white to light brown; nonbasal sheaths 2.1-10.6 mm; blades erect, drooping or recurved, dark green, 0.4-52 cm × 1.6-6.1 mm, usually exceeding culms. Inflorescences: spikes (3-)4 per culm, scattered; peduncles of proximal pistillate spikes drooping, to 9.1 cm; bracts dark green, 10-28 cm × 1.8-5.9 mm, well developed, blade of distal lateral spike (12-)17-51 times as long as wide. Pistillate spikes: the proximal usually, usually basal, the distal sessile to very short pedunculate, often hidden in foliage, 5.3-17 × 2.8-4.1 mm. Staminate spike sessile or nearly so, (8.3-)9.6-16(-21.1) × 0.6-1.3 mm, often hidden by distal bract and/or pistillate spikes. Pistillate scales 1.3-2.2 × 1.4-2.1 mm, midribs green, margins hyaline, apex acute, proximal scales of lateral spikes subtending perigynia. Staminate scales (2.6-)2.8-3.5(-3.8) × 1.1-1.7 mm, midribs green, margins hyaline, apex obtuse. Anthers 1.2-1.8 mm. Perigynia 4-8(-9) per spike, distichously overlapping, finely veined, obovoid, 2.9-3.8 × 1.5-2.1 mm; beak tapering. Achenes ellipsoid, 2.2-2.9 × 1.4-1.8 mm, sides flat at maturity, filling perigynia. Style tapering from swelling just beyond attachment to achene, bent, ascending through entire orifice. Fruiting spring. Mesic, deciduous or mixed deciduous-evergreen forests, often calcareous soils; 200-1200 m; Ala., Ark., Ga., Ind., Ky., Miss., N.C., Ohio, Pa., S.C., Tenn., Va., W.Va.