Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 42: 617. 1915.
Plants densely cespitose; rhizome internodes 1.6–2.2 mm thick. Culms strongly purple-red to 3–7.4 cm high at base, 10–65 cm. Leaves: sheaths glabrous; blades green, widest blades 2.2–3.5 (–3.9) mm wide, smooth abaxially. Inflorescences 0.31–0.94 of culm height; peduncles of lateral spikes barely scaberulous or smooth; peduncles of terminal spikes 1.8–28 mm, usually slightly exceeding lateral spikes; proximal bract sheaths tight, abaxially glabrous, sheath front convex, elongated 0.3–1.1 (–1.7) mm beyond apex; ligules 0.4–2.2 mm; distal bract usually much exceeding terminal spike. Spikes 4–5, widely separate or distal 2–3 spikes overlapping; lateral spikes pistillate, with (1–) 3–9 (–11) perigynia, 4–19 × 5.1–8.2 (–10.2) mm, ratio of spike length (in mm) to flower number = 1.4–1.9; terminal spikes (7–) 10–29 × 1.1–2.1 (–3.1) mm. Pistillate scales 2.8–5.4 × 1.7–2.5 mm, margins whitish, entire, apex with awn 0.8–2.6 mm. Staminate scales 3.6–5 × 1–1.8 mm. Anthers 2.9–3.7 mm. Perigynia distichously imbricate, 51–67-veined, inflated, unwrinkled, oblong-obovoid, orbicular or suborbicular in cross-section, 3.6–4.4 × (1.8–) 2–2.5 (–2.8) mm, 1.6–2 (–2.1) times as long as wide, dull, base very gradually tapered, apex abruptly contracted; beak straight, 0–0.2 (–0.3) mm. Achenes obovoid, 2.6–3.3 × 1.6–2.1 mm, loosely enveloped by perigynia; stipe straight, 0.3–0.7 mm; beak straight, 0.05–0.3 mm.
Phenology: Fruiting spring.
Habitat: Mesic deciduous forests, on flood plains and low on slopes just above flood plains, usually in calcium-rich loams and clay-loams
Elevation: 30–300 m
Ark., La., Miss., Okla., Tenn., Tex.
Carex bulbostylis is common within much of its rather narrow range. It often occurs with C. amphibola and C. planispicata.