Plants without conspicuous rhizomes. Culms 20–60 cm, 2–3.5 mm wide basally, 0.5–1 mm wide distally. Leaves: sheaths tight, green, rarely white spotted, fronts hyaline, slightly thickened at mouth; ligules to 5 mm, longer than wide; widest leaf blades (1.9–)2.5–5 mm wide. Inflorescences forming dense heads, with 3–8 spikes, 0.6–2 cm × 5–10 mm; proximal bracts 1–5 cm; spikes with 4–20 ascending to spreading perigynia. Pistillate scales hyaline with green midvein, ovate, 1–1.8 × 0.8–1.4 mm, body not more than 1/2 length of perigynium, apex acuminate to short-awned. Anthers 0.7–1.3 mm. Perigynia pale green to pale yellow, veinless or to weakly 8-veined abaxially, 2.5–3.2 × 1.4–2 mm, body elliptic to circular, widest at 0.4–0.55 length of body, margins serrulate distally; beak 0.7–1.1 mm, apical teeth 0.3–0.5 mm. Achenes circular, 1 × 1 mm. 2n = 48.
Phenology: Fruiting late spring–early summer.
Habitat: Dry to wet-mesic deciduous or mixed forests, thickets, rarely open grassy habitats
Elevation: 50–500 m
Ont., Que., Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Maine, Mass., Md., Mich., Minn., Mo., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.
The record of Carex cephalophora from California is referable to C. mesochorea.