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Perennial, tufted herb from short, tough, fibrous rhizomes; stems loosely clustered, evidently triangular in cross-section, (40) 60-150 (180) cm tall.
Leaves several, usually on the lower half of the stems; sheaths greenish or pale, not red-tinged; blades flat, grass-like, 6-15 (18) mm wide.
Spikes numerous, terminal, 3-4 mm long, egg-shaped or short-cylindrical, unstalked in dense, nearly globe-shaped heads, that are usually at least 1 cm wide, the heads in open or sometimes very compact, umbel-like, sometimes compound (once or usually twice branched), terminal cymes; involucral bracts several, conspicuous, leaflike, unequal, sheathless, the largest rarely less than 10 cm long.
Scales black or brownish-black, egg-shaped, 1.6-2.8 mm long, the midribs pale, awned, the awns flat or circular in cross-section, tapered, 0.4-0.6 (1.2) mm long; perianth bristles 6, persistent, minutely- and finely-barbed backwards only above the middle, the longest ones equalling the achenes; stigmas 3; achenes pale brown or almost white, plump, 3-angled or plano-convex, 0.8-1.2 mm long, 0.4-0.6 mm wide.
Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia