Plants perennial; rhizomes 0.5-1 mm thick, scales persistent, 5-8 mm, membranous, not fibrous; resting buds absent (non-resting buds on rhizome apex ellipsoid, 10 × 2-5 mm); caudices present, hard, 1-2 mm thick. Culms markedly arched, not spirally twisted, not contracted near spikelet, when dry usually with several blunt to acute ridges and sulcate, subterete to slightly compressed, to 2 times as wide as thick, 5-15 cm × 0.5-1 mm, firm to hard; culm tufts not proximally bulbous. Leaves: distal leaf sheaths brown to reddish proximally, stramineous to reddish distally, apex sometimes reddish, membranous to papery. Spikelets 3-6 × 2-4 mm; proximal scale empty, 2.5-4 mm, 1/2 or more as long as spikelet; floral scales 4-9 per spikelet, 3.5-5 × 2 mm. Flowers: perianth bristles 4-7, very unequal, some shorter than 1/2 of achene, stout and smooth, others equaling or exceeding tubercle, very slender and densely spinulose; anthers 1-1.5 mm. Achenes medium brown, equilaterally trigonous to compressed trigonous or some biconvex, 1.5-2.1 × 0.9-1.2 mm, beak 0.2-0.3 × 0.3-0.4 mm. Tubercles 0.25-0.5 × 0.15-0.2 mm. Fruiting summer. Wet meadows in conifer forests; of conservation concern; 2100-2700 m; Calif. Although usually included in Eleocharis quinqueflora, E. bernardina is clearly more like E. suksdorfiana.