Plants densely cespitose; rhizomes, horizontal to ascending, brown to reddish brown, 0-9 mm, slender. Culms 3-22 cm, strongly scabrous distally; bases (remnants of old leaves) fibrous. Leaf blades pale green, equaling or exceeding stems, 0.8-2.3 mm wide, coriaceous, glabrous abaxially, scabrous to papillose adaxially. Inflorescences with both staminate and pistillate spikes; peduncles of basal spikes stout, usually short, erect; peduncles of staminate spikes 1.1-8.8 mm; proximal nonbasal bracts scalelike, usually equaling or shorter than inflorescences. Spikes: proximal pistillate spikes 1-4 (basal spikes 1-2); cauline spikes overlapping or somewhat separated, with 5-15 perigynia; staminate spikes 6.9-16.9 × 1.4-2 mm. Scales: pistillate scales pale reddish brown with broad white margins, ovate, 3-4.3 × 1.5-1.8 mm, equaling perigynia, apex acute or cuspidate to acuminate; staminate scales lanceolate, 4.8-6.8 × 1.5-1.6 mm, apex acute to acuminate. Anthers 2-3.1 mm. Perigynia pale green to yellowish brown, veinless or faintly to 6-veined near base, globose to obovoid or ellipsoid, round in cross section, 2.7-4 × 1.5-2 mm; beak straight, pale green, not strongly 2-edged, 0.4-1 mm, ciliate-serrulate, apical teeth 0.2 mm. Stigmas 3. Achenes brown, globose to obovoid, round in cross section, 1.6-2.8 × 1.5-1.9 mm.
Fruiting late Apr-late Jul. Dry to mesic, open or shaded sagebrush, pine, juniper, oak, and aspen woodlands, slopes, canyons, and outcrops; 1200-3700 m; Ariz., Calif., Colo., N.Mex., Tex.; Mexico; Central America (Guatemala).
A collection from the Sierra Nevada in California appears to be Carex geophila. This population, as well as those from the San Bernardino Mountains, tentatively assigned to C. pityophila, should be re-evaluated in a revision of the western montane taxa.
Immature plants of Carex lativena S. D. Jones & G. D. Jones (sect. Hallerianae) from Arizona and New Mexico have been misidentified as C. geophila.
FNA 2002, Cronquist et al. 1977
Common Name: White Mountain sedge Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Graminoid General: Densely tufted perennial forming large clumps with slender brown to reddish brown rhizomes 0-9 mm, slender stems 3-22 cm, bases of old remnant leaves fibrous. Vegetative: Leaves pale green, equaling or exceeding stems, 0.8-2.3 mm wide, firm, 3-15 cm long, glabrous below, scabrous to papillose above. Inflorescence: Bearing both staminate and pisillate spikes, staminate spike solitary and terminal, 7-17 mm long by 1.5-2 mm wide, with 1-4 short, few-flowered pistillate spike sessile or short peduncled and borne near the staminate one, often near the base of the stem, cauline spikes overlapping to separated with 5-15 perigynia, pistillate scales pale reddish brown with broad white margins, ovate, 3-4.3 mm by 1.5 mm, equaling perigynia with an acute apex, staminate scales lanceolate 4.5-6.5 mm by 1.5 mm, with an acute apex; perigynia pale green to yellowish brown, veinless or with 6 faint veins, globose to obovoid or ellipsoid, beak straight, pale green; achenes brown, globose to obovoid, round in cross section. Ecology: Found in dry sites, in open to shaded areas from 4,000-12,000 ft (1219-3658 m); flowers April-August. Notes: This species is a densely tufted, low-growing sedge that blooms early (May-June), and has both basal and terminal inflorescences, both shorter than the leaves. It is most easily confused with the rarer and more restricted Carex lativena, which has stronger and broader veining on its perigynia, and an inflorescence bract that has a short but distinct sheath, while that of C. geophila in sheathless. (Notes: Max Licher and Glenn Rink 2012) Ethnobotany: Unknown Etymology: Carex is the classical Latin name for the genus, while geophila means ground loving. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley, 2010