Plants colonial, long-rhizomatous, arial shoots 2.5-18 cm apart. Culms 30-70 cm, smooth to scabrous distally. Leaves: proximal sheaths bladeless, purple tinged, slender, 1.2-3.5 mm diam.; ligules 0.5-2 mm, wider than long; largest blades green, flat, 5-25 cm × 1.8-3(-4) mm, herbaceous. Inflorescences 5-13 cm, 1.1-2.6 times longer than proximal bract; proximal bracts 3-10.5 cm, sheath 0.5-3 cm, blade 2.5-5.5 cm; pistillate spikes loosely flowered, linear, 1-3.5 cm × 3-5 mm; lateral spikes erect or ascending on stiff peduncles. Pistillate scales mostly white hyaline or purplish brown, apex obtuse or awned. Perigynia ascending to spreading, green to brown, stipitate, 2.5-4 × 1-2 mm, minutely papillose near beak; beak very short, strongly bent. Achenes yellowish brown, 2-2.5 × 1.2-1.4 mm. 2n = 44.
Fruiting early summer. Usually dry, calcareous woodlands; 50-1600 m; Ont.; D.C., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., Md., Mich., Minn., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Pa., S.C., Va., W.Va., Wis.
Much like no. 112 [Carex tetanica Schkuhr]; rhizomes shallow, stout, reddish; strongly aphyllopodic, with bladeless red basal lf-sheaths; perigynia ±2-ranked, tapering above, at least the lower not overlapping; 2n=44. Lf-mold in rich woods; N.Y. to D.C., w. to Man. and Mo. (C. colorata; C. tetanica var. w.)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Rare in the northern counties. So far this species is known in Indiana from three collections only, all by Deam: in a moist red and white oak woods 4 miles northwest of Valparaiso, Porter County, June 2, 1927, in a rich beech-maple woods 1 mile southeast of North Liberty, St. Joseph County, May 23, 1934, and June 13, 1935 and at the base of a sugar maple slope in Steuben County. At the latter locality it was associated with Impatiens biflora, Solidago caesia, Viola canadensis, Smilacina racemosa, Polygonum virginianum, Isopyrum biternatum, and Caulophyllum thalictroides.