Culms trigonous, angles obtuse, 4-35 cm, scabrous distally. Leaves basal; sheath fronts with apex concave to V-shaped, glabrous; blades 7-25 cm × 1.5-3 mm, shorter than culm. Inflorescences 2-4 cm; proximal bracts to 5 × 1 mm; spikes crowded; lateral spikes 0.5-1.5 cm × 4-5 mm; terminal spikes 1-2 cm × 4 mm. Scales brown with yellow-brown midrib, 3-veined, equaling perigynia, apex acuminate to retuse, with scabrous awn to 2 mm. Anthers 2-3 mm. Perigynia yellow-brown, often red-brown at apex, sides convex, 2.5-2.8 × 1.5 mm, hairs purple-brown (hair-base bulbous); beak red-brown, conic, thickened. Achenes brown, sessile, mitrate, obovoid, 2-2.2 mm. 2n = 58, 62, 64, 66, 68 (Europe, Japan). Fruiting Jun. Dry pastures, graveyards; 0-100 m; introduced; D.C., Maine, Mass.; Eurasia. Carex caryophyllea is widely distributed in Eurasia and was first recorded in North America in 1826. Carex caryophyllea may escape notice because it somewhat resembles C. pensylvanica in size, habit, scale color, perigynia pubescence, and flowering time. Carex caryophyllea is distinguished by awned scales, perigynia with thick conical beaks, mitrate achenes, and enlarged persistent style bases.
Laxly cespitose, with short creeping rhizomes; stems 1-4 dm, usually much surpassing the short lvs, these all near the base, 1.5-3.5 mm wide; spikes 3 or 4, approximate, the terminal one staminate, 1-2 cm, the lateral ones pistillate, 0.5-1.5 cm, sessile or short-peduncled; pistillate scales brown, ovate-oblong, as wide and long as the perigynia; perigynia narrowly obovoid, 2.5-3 mm, finely hairy, obtusely trigonous, tapering toward the base, short-beaked; achene rounded-trigonous; 2n=62-68. Native of Eurasia, intr. in dry soil from N.B. and Me. to D.C., especially abundant in e. Mass.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.