Plants colonial; rhizomes long-creeping. Culms lateral, trigonous, 20-80(-100) cm, scabrous-angled. Leaves: basal sheaths reddish purple, bladeless, apex of inner band glabrous; ligules 1.5-14 mm; blades green, M-shaped, 2.8-8.5 mm wide, glabrous. Inflorescences 4.5-23 cm; proximal (1-)2-3(-4) spikes pistillate, ascending; distal spikes erect; terminal 1-3 spikes staminate. Pistillate scales lanceolate to ovate, apex acute to acuminate-awned, glabrous, scabrous-ciliate apically. Perigynia ascending to spreading, 16-22-veined, broadly ovoid to broadly ellipsoid, 4.5-6.5 × 2-2.9 mm, cellular details and veination clear, sparsely short-pubescent; beak 1.2-2 mm, bidentulate, teeth straight, 0.5-0.8 mm. Fruiting Jun-Aug. Dry to moist sandy or gravelly soils in open, disturbed sites, rocky balds, ledges; 0-1000 m; Alta., Man., N.B., Nfld. and Labr., N.S., Ont., Que., Sask.; Ill., Maine, Mich., Minn., N.H., N.Y., Vt., Wis. Carex houghtoniana responds strongly to fire and other disturbances, appearing quickly, presumably from the seedbank, then often dying out in a few years if the disturbance is not repeated.
Vigorously colonial by creeping rhizomes, strongly aphyllopodic, 3-6 dm; main lvs 3-6 mm wide; staminate spike 2-4 cm, long-peduncled, sometimes with 1 or 2 much smaller ones at its base; pistillate spikes 1-3, widely separated, cylindric, 1-4 cm, densely fld, erect, short-peduncled or subsessile; lowest bract lf-like, usually surpassing the stem; pistillate scales shorter than the perigynia, lance-ovate, with red-purple sides and hyaline margins, acute or acuminate, or the midvein prolonged into a cusp; perigynia ovoid, (4-)4.5-7 mm, finely hairy, conspicuously many-nerved, acuminately tapering into a bidentate beak two-fifths as long as the body; achene concavely
trigonous; 2n=56. Sandy or rocky soil; Nf. to Sask., s. to N. Engl., n. N.Y., Mich., and Minn. (C. houghtonii)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.