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Perennial, usually aquatic herb from long, often reddish, weak, very soft rhizomes; stems practically circular in cross-section, tapered, flaccid, usually floating near the tips rather than emersed, 20-80 cm long.
Leaves 5 to 20 or more, borne near the base, usually floating, or rarely with erect or emergent leaves, about equalling the stems; sheaths straw-coloured to whitish, often free from the stems and resembling blades; blades elongate, slender, flaccid, C-shaped in cross-section near the base, flattened most of the length, mostly longer than the sheaths.
Spikes solitary, rarely 2, light brown, 7-12 mm long, egg-shaped to nearly cylindrical; involucral bracts solitary, conspicuous, stiff, not leaflike, appearing like an extension of the stem, (1) 1.5-6 cm long.
Scales 4-6 mm long, faintly-nerved, smooth, sometimes fringed with small, short hairs near the tips (at 40 times magnification), egg-shaped to lanceolate, pointed, the midribs firm, sometimes minutely exerted into awns up to 0.1 mm long; perianth bristles 4 to 6, brown, minutely- and finely-barbed backwards, shorter than to occasionally equalling or slightly surpassing the achenes; achenes 3-angled, brown, 2.5-3.8 mm long including the prominent (0.5 mm long), abruptly sharp-pointed tips.
Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia