Herbs, perennial (rarely annual), densely cespitose. Culms 15-40 cm. Leaves to 1/2 scape length; sheaths abaxially glabrous or ribs hirtellous; blades filiform 0.05 mm wide, glabrous or with margins and abaxial ribs hirtellous. Inflorescences in compound anthelae, open or dense; scapes narrowly linear, glabrous, less often hirtellous; longest involucral bract mostly exceeding inflorescence. Spikelets 10+, 3-6 mm; fertile scales red-brown to pale brown, ovate, acute, glabrous or puberulent, midrib excurrent forming short mucro. Flowers: stamens 2-3; anthers 1 mm. Achenes 1 mm. 2n = 60. Fruiting summer-fall. Mostly dry sandy places, sandhills, sandy waste areas, dry oak pine woodlands; 0-200 m; Ala., Fla., Ga., La., Miss., N.C., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Va.; West Indies (Cuba). When Bulbostylis ciliatifolia var. coarctata and var. ciliatifolia are found together, the former is invariably found in higher, drier habitat.