Plants densely cespitose. Culms often nodding, 20–90 cm, vegetative culms inconspicuous with few leaves clustered at apex. Leaves: sheaths abaxially hyaline, adaxially whitish mottled, summits U-shaped, shortly prolonged less than 2.8 mm beyond collar, smooth or sometimes papillose (at 30X); distal ligules 1–2 mm; blades 3–5 per fertile culm, 15–35 cm × 1.3–2.5(–3) mm. Inflorescences often flexible and nodding, open, with elongate spikes, brown, (2–)2.5–5 cm × 7–10 mm; proximal internode (4–)7–17(–20) mm; 2d internode (3–)6–10 mm; proximal bracts scalelike or to 1(–4) cm; rachis usually thin and wiry. Spikes 3–8, distant or loosely aggregated, ovoid to globose, 4–10 × 3.5–6 mm, base tapered or clavate, apex rounded. Pistillate scales white-hyaline or pale brown with green to brown midstripe not reaching scale tip, proximal scales ovate, 2.3–3.3 mm, shorter by 0–1.6 mm and narrower than perigynia, apex obtuse on proximal scales, acute on distal. Perigynia erect to ascending, brown, conspicuously 5–7-veined abaxially, veinless or faintly 3–7-veined adaxially, ovate to broadly ovate, plano-convex, 2.8–4(–4.5) × 1.4–1.9(–2) mm, 0.4–0.5 mm thick, 2–2.3 times as long as wide, margin flat, including wing 0.1–0.5 mm wide, ciliate-serrulate at least distally; beak spreading, appressed or ascending; straw colored to reddish brown at tip, flat, ± ciliate-serrulate, abaxial suture inconspicuous, distance from beak tip to achene 1.3–2.7 mm. Achenes ovate, 1.3–1.7 × 0.85–1.1 mm, 0.5 mm thick. 2n = 52, 54, 56.
Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., N.S., Ont., Que., Sask., Conn., D.C., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Maine, Mass., Md., Mich., Minn., Mo., Mont., N.C., N.Dak., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Nebr., Ohio, Oreg., Pa., R.I., S.Dak., Va., Vt., W.Va., Wis., Wyo.
Varieties 2 (2 in the flora).