Perennial, loosely tufted herb from long rhizomes; stems 5-60 cm tall, longer than the leaves.
Sheaths tight; blades 3 to 6 per stem, flat, borne on the lower 1/3 of the stem, 2-4 mm wide, the lower ones reduced.
Spikes 3 to 5, 4-10 mm long, the terminal spike entirely with male flowers or with a few female flowers at the the top, the lateral spikes 2 to 4, with female flowers, short-stalked; bracts subtending the female spikes short-sheathing, leaflike, the lowermost equalling or slightly surpassing the inflorescence.
Perigynia globe-shaped, 2-3 mm wide, inflated, bluish-grey-green, obscurely nerved, with a powdery surface, beakless; female scales egg-shaped and pointed to rounded at the tips, slightly shorter and narrower than the perigynia, reddish-brown, with greenish midribs and translucent margins; stigmas 2; achenes lens-shaped, 1.2-1.5 mm long.
Two subspecies (sometimes treated as separate species) can be distinguished:
1. Terminal spike usually with female flowers above the male flowers with at least 1/4 of the flowers female and the male portion 1.2-2.7 mm wide; lateral spikes on average with less than 20 flowers................. ssp. garberi
1. Terminal spike male, rarely with a few female flowers at the tip, 1.8-3 mm wide; lateral spikes on average with 20 or more flowers...................... ssp. bifaria (Fern.) Hult.
Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Carex hassei L.H. Bailey