Plants densely cespitose; rhizomes ascending, reddish brown to purplish brown, 0-3 mm, stout or absent. Culms 20-60 cm, scabrous distally; bases (remnants of old leaves) slightly or not fibrous. Leaf blades green, 1.8-5 mm wide, widest leaves 3+ mm wide, herbaceous, papillose to scabrous abaxially, papillose to scabrous adaxially. Inflorescences usually with both staminate and pistillate spikes, rarely only pistillate; peduncle of staminate spike 0.7-9.7 mm; proximal nonbasal bracts leaflike, usually shorter than inflorescences. Spikes: proximal pistillate spikes 2-3 (basal spike 0); cauline spikes usually clearly separated, with 3-10 perigynia; staminate spikes 3.1-15.5 × 1-2.5 mm. Scales: pistillate scales pale brown to dark reddish brown, often with broad white margins, ovate to lanceolate, 2.5-4.8 × 1.2-2 mm, shorter than to exceeding perigynia, apex obtuse to acuminate or short-awned; staminate scales elliptic to obovate, 3.1-5.2 × 0.7-2.2 mm, apex obtuse to acuminate or short-aristate. Anthers 1.8-3 mm. Perigynia pale green, veinless, globose to obovoid, 2.7-3.8 × 1.2-2.6 mm, as long as wide; beak usually straight, occasionally slightly bent, pale green, 0.5-2.3 mm, weakly ciliate-serrulate, apical teeth 0.1-0.5 mm. Stigmas 3. Achenes pale brown, globose to obovoid, round to obtusely trigonous in cross section, 1.4-2.3 × 1-1.4 mm.
Densely cespitose, smooth and purplish at base; stems 2-5 dm, equaling or surpassing the lvs; main lvs 3-6 mm wide; terminal spike staminate, 4-18 mm; pistillate spikes 2 or 3, sessile or nearly so, 5-10 mm, the lowest one a little removed from the others, but none basal; middle and lower bracts largely green, but tending to be scarious-lobed at base; pistillate scales lance-ovate, about as long as the perigynia, obtuse to acuminate, reddish-purple with 3-nerved green center and narrow hyaline margins; perigynia 3-10, 2.5-4 mm, the body subglobose above a stipe-like base, 2-keeled, finely hairy, abruptly prolonged into a slender beak 0.5-1 mm; achene rounded-trigonous. Deciduous woods; N.S. to Minn., s. to S.C., Ky., and Ark.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.