Mem. Torrey Bot. Club 1: 5. 1889.
Plants without conspicuous rhizomes. Culms (20–) 30–100 cm, 2.5–8 mm wide basally, 0.7–1.6 mm wide distally. Leaves: sheaths usually loose, proximally green-and-white-striped, not white spotted, with conspicuous transverse veins on back, fronts hyaline, sometimes transversely rugose and red dotted, thin, white or hyaline and fragile at mouth; ligules 2–7 mm, shorter to longer than wide; widest leaf-blades (3–) 4–8 mm wide. Inflorescences with 5–15 spikes, 1–5 cm × 8–15 mm, occasionally compound, then somewhat larger; proximal bracts to 3 cm; spikes with 5–15 ascending to spreading perigynia; proximal internodes shorter than to 1.5 times as long as proximal spikes. Pistillate scales hyaline or brown with green, 1–3-veined center, ovate, 2.6–4.4 × 1.3–2.4 mm, body shorter to slightly longer than perigynium, apex acuminate to short-awned. Anthers 1.5–3 mm. Perigynia pale green to pale-brown, veinless or 3–7 (–12) -veined abaxially, rarely veined adaxially, 3.5–5.5 × 2–3 mm, body somewhat spongy, base thickened, margins serrulate distally; beak 0.6–1.6 mm, apical teeth 0.3–1 mm. Achenes circular to elliptic circular, 1.8–2.1 × 1.6–2 mm.
Phenology: Fruiting late spring.
Habitat: Prairies, ditches, swales, open forests, usually on calcareous soils
Elevation: 100–1400 m
Man., Ont., Sask., Ark., Colo., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Mich., Minn., Mo., Mont., Nebr., N.Mex., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.Dak., Tenn., Tex., Va., Wis., Wyo.
Carex gravida is introduced in North Carolina.