Culms 15-38 cm tall, 0.4-0.8 mm thick. Basal ligules 1-2 mm, acute; upper ligules to 2.5 mm; blades filiform, about 0.3 mm in diameter. Panicles 6-10 cm, loosely contracted; branches ascending to appressed. Glumes 3-4.5 mm; florets 2.8-4.2 mm; calluses 0.3-0.7 mm; lemmas with 0.1-0.4 mm lobes; awns 10-14 mm, scabridulous, not hairy, weakly once- or twice-geniculate; anthers 0.5-1.5 mm, penicillate. Caryopses 1.5-2.3 mm. 2n = 11.
Ptilagrostis kingii grows along damp streambanks and wet meadows of the Sierra Nevada, at elevations from 2700-3500 m. It differs from most species in the genus in its scabridulous, rather than plumose, awns and short lemma lobes.