Plants colonial from long-creeping rhizomes. Culms 40–120 cm × 0.6–1 mm, smooth or scabrous distally. Leaves: blades flat, trigonous in cross section distally, to 30 cm × 1.5–4 mm; distal leaf blade much longer than sheath. Inflorescences: blade-bearing involucral bracts 2–5, sometimes brown-tinged proximally, leaflike, longest 4–12 cm. Spikelets 2–10, usually in dense head, ovoid, 6–10 mm in flower, 10–20 mm in fruit; peduncles 2–10(–20) mm, scabrid; scales brown, often with green center, ovate-oblong, 4–5 mm, obscurely ribbed or with 3–5 equally prominent ribs, apex obtuse. Flowers: perianth bristles usually 10 or more, brown at least at base, rarely entirely white, 12–18 mm, smooth; anthers 0.7–1.5 mm. Achenes dark brown to black, narrowly obovoid or ellipsoid, 2.5–4 mm.
"Stems stiff, erect, to 1 m, smooth or scabrous only at the summit, solitary or few together from a freely rooting base, the plant also with more slender, spreading rhizomes; blades flat, elongate, 2–4 mm wide; foliaceous bracts 2(3), unequal, much exceeding the infl; spikelets several, on short subequal pedicels, forming a crowded cluster; scales relatively thick and firm, coppery or brown, obtuse or acute, prominently 3–7-nerved; bristles tawny or coppery, seldom white; anthers 1–1.5 mm; achene 3–3.5 mm, a third as wide; 2n=58. Swamps and bogs; abundant; Nf. and Que. to Man. and Minn., s. to Fla. and Ky. Fr Aug.–Oct."
|Tawny cotton-grass, linaigrette de Virginie|