Plants cespitose. Culms acutely angled, 40-150 cm, scabrous. Leaves: basal sheaths red-brown or brown; sheaths of proximal leaves bladeless, glabrous, fronts red-brown to copper-brown, spots absent, indistinctly ladder-fibrillose, apex U-shaped; blades hypostomic, abaxially papillose. Proximal bract longer than inflorescence, 3-6 mm wide. Spikes usually pendent; staminate 1-3, base cuneate or attenuate. Pistillate scales pale to copper-brown, midvein reaching apex, broad, apex of body retuse, aristate. Perigynia divergent, pale brown, inflated, loosely enclosing achenes, obovoid, dull, apex rounded, obtuse or truncate, glabrous. Achenes constricted on one or both margins or lacking constrictions; style base straight. The status of Carex crinita var. porteri (Olney) Fernald [C. porteri Olney], a rare, long-beaked taxon known from two sites in Somerset and Lincoln counties, Maine, is in question and is not treated here. It has not been collected since around the early 1900s.
Densely tufted, 4-16 dm, the strongly aphyllopodic stems surpassing the lvs; main lvs 7-13 mm wide, the sheaths glabrous, bracts lf-like, sheathless or nearly so, the lowest one 2-5.5 dm; spikes loosely spreading to drooping on slender peduncles, often curved, the staminate ones 1-3, slender, 4-9 cm; pistillate spikes 2-5, below the staminate, linear-cylindric, 4-11 cm; pistillate scales (at least the lower) with truncate or often retuse body, the sides thin and coppery-brown, the conspicuous pale midvein prolonged into a rough flat awn to 10 mm; upper scales usually shorter than the lower; perigynia silky-green, 2-ribbed, otherwise nerveless or faintly nerved, smooth to slightly papillate distally, somewhat inflated, nearly circular in x-section, rounded to an abrupt, minute beak; achene lenticular; 2n=66. Wet woods and swales; Nf. and
Que. to Minn., s. to Ga. and Tex. The widespread var. crinita has ellipsoid to obovoid perigynia 2-3(-3.5) נ1-2 mm, achene constricted on one side or edge, with a bent style, varying to straight and symmetrical. The var. brevicrinis Fernald, mainly along the coastal plain, n. locally to Mass., Ky., and Mo., has strongly obovoid perigynia 3-4.5 נ2-3 mm, the achene symmetrical.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.