Plants loosely cespitose; rhizomes stout. Culms to 30 cm, short and long stems on same plant, scabrous. Leaf blades V-shaped in cross section when young, 1-2.5 mm wide, margins revolute, papillose, scabrous. Inflorescences: proximal bracts usually with sheath 2-5 mm; lateral spikes 5-11 × 3-4 mm, usually 1-2 distal and several basal; terminal spike 8-13 × 1.5-3 mm. Pistillate scales 5-7-veined, ovate, 4-4.5 × 1.5-2 mm, proximal ones longer than perigynia, apex acute to acuminate or mucronate. Staminate scales 5-veined, 4-5 × 1.5-2 mm. Perigynia 12-24-veined, veins on faces not more than 0.1 mm wide, most distinctly narrower than marginal veins, obovoid, 3-4.5 × 1.5-1.9 mm, puberulent; beak distinct, straight or slightly bent, 0.3-0.6 mm. Achenes subsessile, usually with 2 faces concave, 2.4-2.5 × 1.5-1.7 mm, apex obtuse to truncate. Fruiting late spring. Dry to mesic forests and scrub, on calcareous soils; 200-700 m; Ark., Okla., Tex.; e Mexico; Central America (Guatemala). Reports of Carex planostachys from Arizona are referable to C. lativena.