This section is from the book "An Illustrated Flora Of The Northern United States, Canada And The British Possessions Vol1", by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Addison Brown. Also available from Amazon: An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 Volume Set..
Culms stout, stiff, erect, smooth, 11 /2°-2 1/2° tall, caespitose. Leaves 1"- 1 1/2" wide, long-pointed, shorter than the culm; bracts subulate, tapering from a broad nerved base, the lower 1 or 2 usually elongated; spikes 3-15, subglobose or short-oval, several-flowered, 3"-6" long, 2"-3" wide, densely clustered and apparently confluent, or slightly separated, brownish in age; staminate flowers basal; perigynia broadly ovate, firm," narrowly wing-margined, 2"-2 1/2" long, 1"-1 1/2" wide, narrowed into a 2-toothed rough beak, several-nerved on the outer face, nerveless on the inner, loosely ascending; scales ovate, acute or acuminate, about equalling the perigynia in length and width; achene 1" broad; stigmas 2.
In dry soil, Newfoundland to southern Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and northwestward. June-July.
Carex pratensis Drejer, Rev. Crit. Car. 24. 1841.
Light green; culms slender, erect when young, the summit later nodding, slightly roughened above, caespitose, 10'-2° tall. Leaves 1/2"-1" wide, shorter than the culm; lower bract bristle-form, usually short; head flexuous and moniliform; spikes 2-6, oblong, usually clavate at base, separated or the upper contiguous, silvery-brown and shining, 3"-8" long, about 2 1/2 in diameter, several-flowered, the staminate flowers basal; perigynia lanceolate, closely appressed, thin, pale, nerveless or nearly so on the inner face, few-nerved on the outer, 2 1/4"-3 1/4" long, nearly 1" wide, wing-margined, tapering into a beak nearly as long as the body; scales brownish-tinged, with very broad white-hyaline margins, obtuse to acute, about as long and as wide as the perigynia.
Northern Maine to western Ontario, Michigan and Oregon, north to Greenland and Alaska, south in the Rocky Mountains to Colorado. Summer.
Carex' foenea var. sparsiflora Howe, Rep. N. Y. Mus. Nat.
Culms slender, nodding, 1 1/2°-3° high, smooth except immediately below head. Leaves 1 1/4"-2" wide, shorter than the culm; lower one or two bracts present but not conspicuous; spikes 3-12 in a moniliform or loose head 1 1/2'-3' long, all separate or upper aggregated, oblong, 3V-12" long, 2 1/2-3 1/2 thick, rounded at apex, clavate at base, densely many flowered; perigynia appressed-ascending, or loosely ascending in age, ovate, narrowly wing-margined, rounded at base, 2"-2i" long, \"-\\" wide, tapering into a rough 2-toothed beak less than half the length of the nerveless or obscurely nerved body; scales ovate, acute or short-acuminate, white-hyaline with darker center, as wide and as long as perigynia; stigmas 2.
In dry places, Labrador to Connecticut, west to Michigan and British Columbia. May-July.