Plants cespitose; rhizomes short, stout. Culms: fertile ones lax, reclining, inflorescences lopping over to (or nearly to) ground; nodes sometimes with axillary bulblets. Leaves 4-9 per culm; sheaths of proximal leaves whitish; proximal sheaths and blades with septa few, inconspicuous; blades 18-32 cm × 6-13 mm. Inflorescences terminal and axillary in 2-3 distal leaves; rays ascending or divergent, rays and pedicels scabrous or scabrellous throughout or sometimes only in distal 1/2, rays often bearing axillary bulblets; bases of involucral bracts green, not glutinous. Spikelets in open cymes, central spikelet of each cyme sessile, others long-pedicellate, spikelets ovoid, narrowly ovoid, or narrowly ellipsoid, 4-7(-10) × 2-3 mm; scales brown to red-brown with green midribs, ovate to narrowly elliptic, 1.8-2.5 mm, apex mucronate, mucro 0.1-0.3 mm. Flowers: perianth bristles persistent, 6, slender, much longer than achene, strongly contorted and not or scarcely projecting beyond it, smooth, enclosed within scales or scarcely projecting beyond them; styles 3-fid. Achenes pale brown, elliptic in outline, plano-convex or plumply trigonous, 1.1-1.5 × 0.6-0.7 mm. 2n = 36.
Fruiting late spring-early summer (May-Jun). Usually along wooded streams, often associated with calcareous substrates; 0-100 m; Ala., Fla., Ga., La., Miss., N.C., S.C., Va.
Authors prior to 1966 incorrectly applied the name Scirpus lineatus to plants of S. pendulus and treated plants of S. lineatus as S. fontinalis (A. E. Schuyler 1966).
Much like no. 26 [Scirpus pendulus Muhl., but the mature stems lax and with the infls lopping over toward the ground; infls in the axils of 2 or 3 upper lvs as well as terminal; rays more divergent, and with axillary bulblets; spikelets individually pedicellate; 2n=36. Wet (often calcareous) woods; se. Va. to Fla. and La. Fr. May, June. (S. fontinalis)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.