Culms erect, glaucous, sometimes strongly purplish, (5–) 10–15(–35) cm tall, nodes 1 or 2, uppermost to 1/5 way up culm, covered by sheath; uppermost internode up to 1.5–2 mm wide. Shoots always extravaginal, even when densely tufted. Leaf sheath longer than blade, flat or folded, sometimes quite soft, withering, 1–2 mm wide, margins and both sides of veins scabrid; ligule 1–1.5(–2) mm. Panicle contracted, later quite open, 4–7 cm; branches 1 or 2 per node, 2–3 cm, with a few scattered spikelets. Spikelets oblong-ovate, (3.8–)4–5(–7) mm, tinged with purple, florets 2–4; glumes narrowly lanceolate, unequal, as long as lower lemma; lemma narrowly lanceolate, lower lemma ca. 4 mm, keel shortly villous for 1/2 of length, marginal veins for 1/3; callus sparsely webbed or glabrous. Fl. Jun–Aug.
"Culms clustered, 2–5 dm, erect, without rhizomes; lvs glaucous, lax, 1–3 mm wide, the uppermost one at or below the middle of the shoot; ligule 1–2 mm; infl long-exsert, narrow, rather dense, 3–12 cm, the branches in sets of 2–5, at first ascending, later spreading, each with a few 2–4-fld spikelets; glumes lanceolate, subequal, 2.3–3.8 mm, less than half as wide; lemmas 2.5–3.5 mm, densely sericeous or villosulous on the lower half of the keel and marginal veins, not webbed, the intermediate veins obscure; rachilla puberulent at 30×; anthers 1–2.2 mm; 2n=42, 49, 56, 63, 70. Gravelly or rocky soil and cliffs; circumboreal, s. to Vt., n. Mich., and ne. Minn. (P. glaucantha; P. scopulorum)"