Plants perennial; rhizomes horizontal, elongate. Culms erect, slender, 15-65(-75) cm, hairy or glabrous. Leaves: sheaths green to brownish or reddish, not or scarcely winged, weakly ribbed, hirsute or glabrous; contra-ligule minute, obtuse, or absent; blades linear, ribbed, usually much shorter than inflorescences, 1.5-4(-5) mm wide, pubescent or more rarely glabrous. Inflorescences terminal, unbranched, glomerate-spicate, 4-8(-12) cm; glomerules 3-9(-11), inserted in longitudinal concavities in rachis, open, nodding or reflexed, greenish to reddish brown, 4-7 mm wide, each with 2-7(-8) spikelets; bract occasionally subtending proximalmost glomerule, attenuate, 1-2.5 cm. Spikelets bisexual and staminate, 4-5 mm; staminate spikelets many flowered; staminate scales lance-acuminate, pistillate scales ovate-acuminate. Achenes sordid white or gray, trigonous, ovoid to subglobose, 1-2 mm, smooth, shining, base broadly cuneate-attenuate, apex mucronate, hypogynium obsolete, represented by narrow brownish ridge or band at base of achene. Fruiting spring-fall. Moist sandy or sandy-peat soil in savannas, pinelands, or meadows, also in peaty bogs, seepage areas; 0-100 m; Ala., Fla., Ga., La., Miss., N.C., Tex.; Mexico; West Indies (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica); Central America; South America; Africa. Scleria distans is widespread in tropical America and Africa. Temperate North American material has often been called Scleria hirtella Swartz (J. E. Fairey 1967; J. W. Kessler 1987); E. A. Robinson (1964) used the name S. nutans for those plants. The name S. hirtella properly belongs to an annual species of tropical America (C. D. Adams 1994b).