Culms in medium- to large-sized clumps, 30-90 cm. Leaves cauline, usually overtopping culms; blades 10-40(-50) cm × 4-9 mm. Inflorescences with proximal spikes ± strongly separate on slender peduncles, others approximate and short-pedunculate or subsessile, narrowly oblong to cylindric, 1-4 cm × 3.5-5.6 mm; lateral spikes, if gynecandrous, with ca. 30-140 pistillate flowers distally and (0-)1-10 staminate flowers proximally; terminal spikes staminate proximally, 1/2-3/4 pistillate distally. Pistillate scales ovate, 1.5-3.2 mm, mostly not quite as long as perigynia. Perigynia olive green to brown, very broadly compressed-obovoid, sharply edged, 2-2.6 × 1.8-2.4 mm; beak often projecting out at 90° angle. Achenes widely oblong-obovoid, 1.5-1.8 × 1-1.3 mm, apex short-apiculate. Fruiting late spring-summer (May-late Jul). Rich woods at bases of slopes, more commonly swampy woods and thickets, wet, open grounds such as spring-fed meadows, prairie swales, pond margins, low depressions, streams, and ditches, particularly characteristic of bottomlands, often in calcareous soils; 10-500 m; Ont.; Ark., D.C., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Md., Mo., Ohio, Okla., Pa., Tenn., Va., W.Va. Confined to the interior of eastern North America, Carex shortiana is common west of the Allegheny Mountains, especially throughout the Ohio River Valley. It is notable among tristigmatic carices in having all the spikes gynecandrous, the lateral ones conspicuously repeating the pattern of the terminal spike. Carex shortiana rarely hybridizes with either C. squarrosa or C. typhina in the Midwest and produces the sterile hybrid C. × deamii F. J. Hermann. The spikes of the hybrid are subcylindric as in C. shortiana but thicker (7-8 mm instead of 3.5-5.6 mm), and the perigynia resemble those of C. squarrosa but with their bodies more compressed and beaks intermediate in length (1-1.5 mm). Plants of that hybrid are known from Indiana (F. J. Hermann 1938, 1940b), Missouri (J. A. Steyermark 1958, 1963; G. Yatskievych and J. Turner 1990; G. Yatskievych 1999+), Illinois (W. J. Hess and P. Shildneck 1982), and Kentucky (supporting specimens in PH). The second parent has been hypothesized to be C. typhina, but all evidence strongly suggests C. squarrosa (D. K. Evans, unpubl. data), although either may occur at stations from which C. × deamii is known.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Common except in northern Indiana. It is found in moist open woods and roadside ditches and on banks of creeks. Attempts to locate a specimen to support Peattie's report from Lake County have been unsuccessful and the species is not otherwise known in western Indiana north of Tippecanoe County.
Stout, tufted, 4-8 dm; main lvs 4-8 mm wide; spikes 4-6, cylindric, erect, the terminal gynaecandrous, the lateral pistillate, the lowest on long slender peduncles, the others progressively less so or subsessile; bracts lf-like, sheathless or nearly so; pistillate scales ovate, nearly or quite as long as the perigynia, reddish-brown, acute or rounded and mucronate; perigynia spreading, flattened-trigonous, broadly obovate, 1.8-2.6 mm, nearly as wide, cuneate to the base, conspicuously 2- ribbed at the lateral angles, otherwise nerveless, minutely apiculate; achene concavely trigonous. Moist woods and meadows; Pa. and sw. Ont. to Ind., Io., Mo., Kans., and Tenn.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.