Plants perennial, cespitose, 100-150 cm; rhizomes absent. Culms erect to excurved ascending, narrowly linear to ± filiform, terete to obscurely trigonous, leafy, densely so toward base, stiff to rather lax. Leaves overtopped by culm; blades linear, ascending, proximally flat, 1-4 mm wide, apex trigonous, subulate, tapering gradually. Inflorescences: spikelet clusters 1-3(-4), proximal mostly widely spaced, dense, broadly turbinate to hemispheric, to 2 cm broad; leafy bracts subulate, exceeding proximal spikelets, slightly or not exceeding most distal clusters. Spikelets red brown, narrowly ovoid, (3-)3.5-5 mm, apex acute; fertile scales ovate, 3-3.5(-4) mm, apex acute, mostly with cusp or mucro 0.5-1 mm. Flowers: bristles 5-6, from rudimentary to reaching tubercle tip, or (rarely) beyond, antrorsely barbellate. Fruits 1-3 per spikelet, (1.5-)2-2.2(-2.5) mm; body dark brown with pale center, lenticular, broadly ellipsoid to ± orbicular, (1.3-)1.5-1.7(-1.9) × 1-1.5 mm, margins pale, narrow or narrowly rounded, flowing to tubercle; surfaces dull, minutely longitudinally striate; tubercle compressed, triangular to triangular subulate, 0.5-0.7(-0.9) mm. Fruiting late spring-fall or all year (south). Sands and peats of interdunal swales, depressions in savannas, open flatwoods, and seep-bog edges; 0-100 m; Ala., Fla., Ga., La., Miss., N.C., S.C., Tex., Va.; Bermuda; Central America. In her revision, S. Gale (1944) treated var. distans as the more slender version of the species, one with a smaller inflorescence, more distinctly margined fruit body, and consistently elongate perianth bristles. All those character states appear to vary independently over the total range of the species.
Cespitose, erect to 1 m, relatively coarse, the stems 1.5-3 mm thick near the base; lvs filiform or to 4 mm wide, no more than half as long as the stems; terminal glomerules broadly turbinate to corymbiform, 5-25 mm thick, or compound and to 5 cm wide; lateral glomerules 0.3, usually remote, conspicuously pedunculate; spikelets 2.5-4 mm, with 2-4 fls and 1-3 frs; bristles (0-)6, antrorsely barbellate, variable, up to as long as the achene; achenes elliptic to subrotund, brown, sometimes pale at the center, 1.3-1.7 mm, three-fourths to fully as wide; tubercle deltoid, 0.3-0.8 mm, up to half as long or sometimes fully as long as the achene. Wet acid soil on the coastal plain; trop. Amer., n. to Tex. and se. Va.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.