Plants moderate in size, in dense, yellow-green to golden yellow shining tufts. Stems 2-4.5 cm, erect, simple or forked, densely foliate, rhizoids smooth, red-brown, sparse, concentrated along the proximal portion of the stem, central strand present. Leaves crisped-contorted when dry, widely spreading-flexuose when wet, subfalcate, abruptly narrowed from a flaring, obovate, strongly shouldered, sheathing base into a long, linear-lanceolate, canaliculate subula; apex subulate, not deciduous, distal lamina serrate abaxially; margins canaliculate, entire at the base, becoming distantly low-denticulate distally and strongly serrate near apex, 1- or irregularly 2-stratose; costa single, narrow, filling less than 1/3 of the leaf base, percurrent to shortly excurrent, smooth but sharply toothed abaxially near the apex, adaxial epidermis absent, stereid bands 2, adaxial band disappearing in apex; laminal cells plane, unpitted, smooth, differentiated, basal cells long-rectangular, thin to vesciculose, not differentiated along costa or basal angles, distal cells subquadrate, thick-walled. Specialized asexual reproduction none. Sexual condition autoicous; antheridia gemmiform, occurring at various distances below the perichaetium; perichaetial leaves similar to apical stem leaves but with higher sheathing bases. Seta 1-4 per perichaetium, erect, ca. 1 cm, slender, smooth, yellow. Capsule erect, symmetric, slenderly cylindric, straight or slightly arcuate, smooth or irregularly striate when dry, base gradually tapering to the seta, not strumose, annulus indistinctly differentiated; operculum obliquely long-rostrate; peristome teeth deeply inserted, 16, in 8 groups each composed of 2 teeth joined at the base and each tooth distally divided to above the middle into two rami, the 2 inner, neighboring rami shorter and narrower than the outer rami, vertically striolate at base and strongly papillose in the upper 1/3; deep red. Calyptra narrow, cucullate, rough in the apex, entire at the base, naked, covering the distal 1/2 of the capsule, fugacious. Spores 12-18 µm, smooth to very finely papillose, irregularly ovoid. Nine species of Symblepharis occur in southeastern Asia, two in the Neotropics, and one in tropical Africa. The genus is recognized by wide-spreading leaf tips that are crisped when dry, the linear-lanceolate lamina abruptly distinct from a flaring obovate-sheathing base, and, when they do occur, setae clustered. The distinctive striate proximal and papillose distal portions of the peristome teeth, and the grouping of the teeth into eight tooth-pairs are also characteristic. The organization of the peristome is somewhat more complex than descriptions usually indicate, the eight groups of paired teeth being separated by 'a space equivalent to one tooth between each pair' (H. C. Gangulee 1969+, fasc. 2). The gametophyte of the genus is nearly identical with that of the common and widespread Oncophorus wahlenbergii. Since both species display bistratose leaf margins, this is not a good character to differentiate them (see discussion below). In S. vaginata the capsule is erect, long-cylindric, symmetric, and tapering gradually to the seta, and is essentially smooth wet or dry. The capsule of O. wahlenbergii is inclined to horizontal, short-ovoid, asymmetric, and with a goiterlike swelling at the base (as is the case for all species of Oncophorus), and is generally distinctly furrowed when dry.