Plants small to large, in loose to dense mats, green to yellowish (golden) or brownish. Stems creeping, densely foliate, often julaceous, irregularly and usually sympodially branched, branches similar to stems; central strand present; pseudoparaphyllia triangular, acute; axillary hairs of 2-4 cells, . Stem leaves appressed (erect when moist in S. californicum and S. julaceum), usually closely imbricate, broadly ovate to ovate-lanceolate, strongly concave, not plicate; base inconspicuously decurrent; margins serrulate to subentire; apex gradually or abruptly tapered, obtuse, acute, short-acuminate, apiculate, or rarely long-acuminate; costa to 60-80% leaf length, moderate to somewhat stout, terminal abaxial spine usually present, indistinct (absent in S. obtusifolium); alar cells isodiametric, small to enlarged, ; laminal cells flexuose-linear, walls thick; basal cells short to elongate. Branch leaves similar. Sexual condition dioicous; perichaetial leaf acumen long, reflexed. Seta red-brown, rough throughout or distally, or smooth. Capsule inclined to horizontal (suberect to inclined in S. cespitans), red-brown, short-cylindric, usually curved; annulus separating or not; operculum conic; peristome xerocastique, perfect. Calyptra naked. Spores 10-19 µm.