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Perennial herb from stout, creeping rhizomes; stems 10-60 cm tall, arising singly or a few together, equalling or longer than the leaves.
Sheaths tight, hairy below; ligules short; blades 2 to 4 per stem, flat or somewhat channeled, borne on the lower 1/3 to 1/2 of the stem, 1-3 mm wide.
Spikes solitary, either male or female on separate plants, the male spikes cylindrical, erect, the female spikes many-flowered, similar, 1.5-4 cm long, 2.5-5 mm wide, unstalked; bracts scalelike, prolonged into awns up to 2 cm long or sometimes awnless.
Perigynia egg-shaped to elliptical or nearly globe-shaped, 2.5-4.5 mm long, 1-2 mm wide, appressed, slightly spreading at maturity, straw-coloured, short-hairy on the backs, especially towards the tips, obscurely several-nerved, unstalked to short-stalked, the beaks bidentate, evident, short, slender; female scales broadly egg-shaped, slightly shorter and as wide as the perigynia, rounded, brown to blackish, the centres pale, the margins narrowly translucent; stigmas 3; achenes 3-angled, about 1.5-2 mm long.
Three varieties occur in BC.
1. Perigynia egg-shaped to elliptical, mostly 3-4.5 mm long and more than 2.5 times as long as wide; achenes distinctly stalked; plants of moist sites mainly of W BC..................... var. stenochlaena Holm
1. Perigynia nearly globe-shaped, mostly 2.5-3 mm long and less than 2.5 times as long as wide; achenes short-stalked or unstalked; plants of mesic to dry sites in SC BC or N and SE BC.
2. Stems with the lowest leaves reduced to scales, the flowering ones arising from the current year's vegetative shoots which have conspicuous basal scale leaves; plants mainly of N and SE BC......................... var. scirpoidea
2. Stems with the lowest leaves well developed, clothed at bases with the conspicuous dried-up leaves of the previous year; plants mainly in the Cascades...................... var. pseudoscirpoidea (Rydb.) Cronq.
Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia