Plants densely cespitose. Culms 50-85 cm. Leaves: sheaths often green-veined, white-hyaline at least 10 mm below summit, ± firm, summits U-shaped or rounded, prolonged to 4 mm beyond collar; distal ligules 1-4 mm; blades 3-6 per fertile culm, flat or folded, 14-50 cm × (2.3-)3-5 mm. Inflorescences usually dense, greenish or gold, usually oblong, 1.9-5 cm × 12-19 mm; proximal internode 2.5-5(-7) mm; 2d internode 2-5.5 mm; proximal bracts scalelike or bristlelike, shorter than inflorescences. Spikes 5-14, aggregated or proximal 1 more distant, narrowly to broadly ovoid, 9-18 × 6-9(-11) mm, base rounded to attenuate, apex truncate to tapered. Pistillate scales green to gold or red-brown, with pale midstripe, lanceolate to ovate, (3.9-)4.3-5.2 mm, shorter than or ± equaling and narrower than perigynia, margin white, 0-0.5 mm wide, apex acute to acuminate. Perigynia appressed to ascending, green to straw colored, conspicuously usually 10-18-veined abaxially, conspicuously 4-10-veined adaxially, at least 3 adaxial veins longer than achene, lanceolate to ovate, plano-convex, 4.9-6.3(-7) × 1.5-1.8(-2) mm, 0.5-0.7 mm thick, margin flat, including wing 0.25-0.4 mm wide, ciliate-serrulate at least on distal body; beak gold to red-brown at tip, flat, ± ciliate-serrulate, abaxial suture inconspicuous, distance from beak tip to achene 2.7-4.2 mm. Achenes elliptic to obovate, 1.6-2(-2.3) × 1-1.5 mm, 0.4-0.5(-0.6) mm thick. Fruiting summer. Dry soils in meadows, open forests; 1200-3500 m; Calif., Nev. Perigynia of Carex specifica are sometimes narrowly lanceolate, resembling those of C. petasata in shape, but perigynia of C. specifica are consistently smaller and have smaller achenes.