Plants densely cespitose. Culms (16-)30-70(-95) cm. Leaves: sheath adaxially white-hyaline or summits often tinged brown or copper, U-shaped, not prolonged more than 2.8 mm; distal ligules 1-2.5(-3.5) mm; blades (2-)3-5 per fertile culm, 10-30 cm × (1.5-)2-3(-4) mm. Inflorescences usually open, often nodding, whitish, green, or gold to dark brown, occasionally beaded, (1.7-)2.5-5 cm × 10-15(-17) mm; proximal internode 4-14 mm; 2d internode (2.5-)4-10 mm; proximal bracts scalelike to bristlelike, shorter than inflorescences. Spikes 4-10, distant, distinct, oblanceloid to broadly ovoid, 8.5-20 × 3-9 mm, base acute to attenuate, apex tapered to truncate. Pistillate scales white, gold, coppery, or brown, with white or green to brown midstripe, lanceolate to broadly ovate, (3.4-)4.2-5.8 mm, equaling or longer than and narrower than or equaling perigynia, margin white, 0.1-0.3 mm wide, apex obtuse to acuminate. Anthers early deciduous ro short-persistent. Perigynia appressed to ascending-spreading, often hyaline, white, green, or gold, brown or coppery over achene, conspicuously (0-)4-11-veined abaxially, conspicuously 0-4(-7)-veined adaxially, ovate or, sometimes, lanceolate, plano-convex or flat, (3.7-)4.5-6 × 1.2-2 mm, 0.5-0.8 mm thick, length 2.8-3.1 times width, margin flat, including wing (0.1-)0.2-0.4(-0.5) mm wide, ciliate-serrulate, without glossy metallic sheen; beak green or gold to red-brown or chestnut-brown, white-hyaline at tip, cylindric, unwinged, ± entire for 0.4-1 mm, abaxial suture conspicuous with white-hyaline margin or inconspicuous, distance from beak tip to achene (1.6-)1.9-3 mm. Achenes ovate or obovate, 1.4-2.1(-2.7) × (0.8-)1-1.5 mm, 0.4-0.6 mm thick. 2n = 76, 78.
Densely tufted, aphyllopodic, 3-8 dm; main lvs 2-4 mm wide, shorter than the stems; spikes 3-7, gynaecandrous, 7-18 mm, sessile in a slender, rather loose and flexuous, ±nodding spike; pistillate scales largely concealing the mature perigynia, except often beak-tip; perigynia loosely ascending-appressed, pale green to brownish (4-)4.3-5.7(-6) נ(1.2-)1.3-2(2.1) mm, 2.6-4 times as long as wide, planoconvex, wing-margined and serrulate, evidently nerved dorsally, nerveless or nearly so (seldom evidently nerved) ventrally, the beak with a subterete, ±entire tip 0.5+ mm; achene lenticular, 1.7-2.2 mm. Meadows; Greenl. to Alas., s. to Que., n. Mich., N.D., and Calif. (C. pratensis, a preoccupied name)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.