Plants cespitose or not, short-rhizomatous. Culms solitary or not, erect, (15-)30-80(-140) cm. Leaves 6-12; basal sheaths purplish red; sheath of distal leaf 0-1(-2.5) cm; ligules rounded, 1-8 mm; blades 8-27 cm × 3.5-8 mm. Inflorescences 2-15 cm; peduncles of proximal pistillate spikes 0.3-1.5 cm, basal 2 peduncles 0.2-2.1 cm apart; of terminal spike 0.5-4 cm; bracts leafy, sheathless, blades 6-21 × 2-6 mm. Spikes: proximal pistillate spikes 1-4, often closely aggregated and difficult to distinguish, 1-12-flowered, ovoid to obovoid, 1-2.7 × 1-2.8 cm; terminal staminate spike 1, 1-5 cm × 1-3 mm. Pistillate scales 1-3-veined, lanceolate-ovate to ovate, 4-9.5 × 2-3.8 mm, apex acute to awned, awns rough, to 6.5 mm. Anthers 3, 2-4 mm. Perigynia ascending to spreading or the basalmost reflexed, strongly 13-23-veined, lanceoloid to ovoid, 10-16.5 × 2.5-6.5 mm, with satiny luster, glabrous; beak poorly defined, 2-4.2 mm. Achenes sessile, ellipsoid to obovoid, flat to convex faces, angles not thickened, 3.5-5.7 × (2.2-)2.5-3.9 mm; style same texture as achene.
Plants from the south of the species range and from lower elevations northward are usually more robust and have more inflated, ovoid perigynia than northern or high-elevation plants. The latter are sometimes distinguished as Carex intumescens var. fernaldii L. H. Bailey.
Much like no. 225 [Carex grayi J. Carey]; pistillate spikes 1-4, 1-2.7 cm long and wide, ovoid to obovoid, loosely fld, on peduncles to 1.5 cm, often closely aggregated; perigynia 1-12, mostly spreading or ascending, with a satiny lustre, 10-16.5 נ2.5-6.5 mm, convexly rounded to the base, the poorly defined beak 2-4.2 mm; achene 3.5-5.7 נ2.5-4 mm, with flat or convex faces; 2n=48. Moist or wet woods; Nf. to se. Man., s. to Fla. and Tex.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Frequent to locally common in depressions in low woods (maple, beech, sweet gum or pin oak) and in flat woods. [Variety fernaldii, with narrower, shorter perigynia, is] infrequent in northern Indiana, chiefly in the lake area, in habitats similar to those of the species.