Wahlenberg, Kongl. Vetensk. Acad. Nya Handl. 24: 146. 1803.
Plants densely cespitose, in small clumps; rhizomes short. Culms often arching, weak, 10—40(—60) cm. Leaves: sheaths pale to mid brown abaxially, inner band thin and hyaline, concave at summit; ligules as wide as long, 2—8 mm; blades usually gray-green, flat to channeled, 5—15 cm × 1—2 mm, usually shorter than culms. Inflorescences erect, 1—2 cm × 5—12 mm; proximal bracts usually scalelike, shorter than spikes. Spikes 2—4, closely approximate, individually distinct, proximal lateral spikes pistillate, containing 5—10(—15) perigynia, oblong-linear; terminal spike gynecandrous, containing 10(—20) perigynia, clavate. Pistillate scales pale to red-brown with yellow-brown center and white-hyaline margins, oblong-ovate, subequal to perigynia, apex obtuse. Perigynia ascending, light to pale brown, often gray-brown at maturity, lightly or obscurely several-veined, from broadly elliptic-obovate to lanceolate, 1.5—3.5 × 1.—1.5 mm, widest near middle, subcoriaceous; beak short, entire. Achenes mid brown to red-brown, elliptic, 1.5 × 1—1.25 mm, dull to slightly glossy. 2n = 66.
Subspecies 3 (2 in the flora): North America, Eurasia.