Plants loosely or densely cespitose, in small clumps; rhizomes short. Culms usually erect, slender, 10-20(-30) cm. Leaves: sheaths pale brown abaxially, inner band thin, hyaline, sometimes red tinged, concave at summit; ligules as long as wide; blades pale to gray-green, flat, 5-15 cm × 1.5-2.5 mm, shorter than culms, thin. Inflorescences 1-1.5(-2) cm × 5-10 mm; proximal bracts bristlelike, prolonged, distal bracts scalelike. Spikes 3-5, gynecandrous, approximate, sessile, containing 8-15(-20) perigynia; terminal spike staminate for less than 1/2 of length, shortly clavate, oblong-ovoid, 4-7 × 3-5 mm. Pistillate scales light chestnut-brown with lighter center and hyaline margins, ovate, subequal to perigynia, apex obtuse. Perigynia appressed-ascending, pale brown, often darker brown in age, finely several-veined, elliptic-ovate, 1.5-2 × 1 mm, widest near middle, membranous; beak short, entire or slightly serrulate. Achenes pale brown, broadly obovate, 1.25 × 0.8-1 mm, dull to slightly glossy. Fruiting Jul-Sep. Boggy places, wet soil around montane ponds and lakes; 2300-3500 m; B.C.; Calif., Colo., Idaho, Mont., Nev., Oreg., Utah, Wash., Wyo.