Plants densely cespitose. Culms 25-120 cm; vegetative culms inconspicuous with few leaves clustered at apex. Leaves: sheaths conspicuously green-veined adaxially nearly to apex, narrow hyaline band or sharp Y-shaped region at collar, adaxially firm, summits U-shaped, not prolonged; distal ligules 1.5-4.5 mm; blades 3-5 per fertile culm, 9-25 cm × 2-3.5 mm. Inflorescences erect, open, yellow-green to brown, 1.5-4 cm × 4-12 mm; proximal internode 3-12 mm; 2d internode 3-9 mm; proximal bracts scalelike, with bristle tips, shorter than inflorescences. Spikes 2-8, distinct, ellipsoid to globose, 5-13 × 4-6.5 mm, base acute, apex rounded; staminate portion of well-developed spikes less than 2 mm. Pistillate scales white-hyaline or brown, with green midstripe, broadly lanceolate or ovate, 2.5-3.4 mm, longer and narrower than perigynia, apex acute. Perigynia spreading, green to light brown, conspicuously 4-many-veined on each face, winged to base, obovate, flat except over achene or somewhat plano-convex, 2.6-4.5 × 1.5-2.7 mm, 0.3-0.45 mm thick, margin flat, including wing 0.4-0.7 mm wide; beak pale brown at tip, flat, ciliate-serrulate, abaxial suture with white or brown hyaline margin, distance from beak tip to achene 1-2 mm. Achenes oblong, 1.3-1.7 × 0.75-1 mm, 0.3-0.4 mm thick; styles laterally sinuate. 2n = 66.
Carex albolutescens is easily confused with C. festucacea, which has orbiculate or broadly ovate, plumply plano-convex perignyia bodies, broader (usually more than 1 mm wide), more ovoid achenes, and straight or abaxial-adaxially bent styles (P. E. Rothrock 1991).
Much like no. 84 [Carex longii Mack]., but the perigynium-beak more slender, spreading, its winged margins not reaching the tip; pistillate scales distally flat and acute, the midrib reaching the tip; style laterally flexuous; 2n=66. Swamps and low woods and thickets; Mass. to Ga., w. to s. Mich., s. Ill., s. Mo., La., and Tex. (C. straminea, misapplied)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Frequent in southern Indiana in low flat woods, associated principally with sweet gum and pin oak. It also is found rarely along the northern border of the state where it occurs in low woods, associated with beech and sugar maple, and occasionally in swamps.