Culms densely cespitose, reddish, 3--33 cm, base thick, extending 1--8 cm into soil. Leaves: sheath throats densely hairy; basal leaves erect, channeled, linear, 2--15 cm x 1--4 mm, apex not callous; cauline leaves 2--3. Inflorescences panicles of dense, nodding, spikelike clusters (each 1--25 mm), often interrupted by 10--70 mm; proximal inflorescence bract conspicuous, generally exceeding inflorescence; bracts clear; bracteoles clear, margins ciliate, apex narrow, extended. Flowers: tepals brown with clear margins or very pale throughout (outer whorl bristle-pointed), 2--2.5 mm; outer whorl longer than inner whorl; anthers ± equaling filaments. Capsules pale to dark brown or blackish, round (apex ± acute), generally shorter than tepals, apex ± acute. Seeds brown, cylindric-ovoid, body 1--1.2 mm; caruncle 0.2 mm. 2n = 24.
Flowering and fruiting summer. Alpine slopes and heaths, dry or damp situations among grasses, herbs, or lichens, and in subalpine forests; 0--3700 m; circumpolar; Greenland; St. Pierre and Miquelon; Alta., B.C., Man., Nfld. and Labr., N.W.T., Nunavut, Que., Yukon; Alaska, Calif., Colo., Idaho, Maine, Mont., Nev., N.H., N.Mex., N.Y., Oreg., Utah, Vt., Wash., Wyo.; Eurasia.
The culms of Luzula spicata are thick and reddish with bases extending 1--8 cm into the soil; sheath throats are densely hairy; basal leaves are erect, linear, and channeled; inflorescence bracts are conspicuous and often exceed glomerules; and bracteoles have narrow and extended apices.
Densely cespitose, 1-3 dm; basal lvs numerous; cauline lvs 2 or 3, narrowly linear; fls in small, dense, sessile glomerules, forming a nodding spike 1-3 cm; bracts subtending the fls acuminate, red-brown below, scarious above, often ciliate; tep 2-2.5 mm, terminating in a slender fragile bristle; fr purple-brown, about equaling the tep; seeds ellipsoid, 1-1.2 mm, with a narrow raphe and a very short, rounded, basal appendage; 2n=12, 14, 18, 24. Arctic and alpine meadows, ledges, and slopes; circumboreal, s. to the high mts. of N.Y. and N. Engl.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.