Perennial with annual aerial parts. This species is often confused with S. nutans from which it is distinguished by its soboles, its abbreviated rhizome, its basally congested leaves and by the presence of bulliform translucent cells subjacent to the adaxial epidermis in the intercostal regions.
Perennial with two different kinds of propagative stems. Rhizome little more than the connective between ± contiguous culm bases; scales castaneous. Soboles sometimes produced from culm-bases, soft, terete, 10 mm long, with collateral vascular bundles. Culms solitary or clustered, 0.25-0.70 m tall, villous. Leaves 2-3 mm broad, usually villous, mostly crowded towards base of culm; mouths of sheaths truncate or concave, densely villous. Inflorescence unbranched, 40-180 mm long. Glomerules 4-15, of 1-7 reflexed sessile spikelets. Bracts glumiform, awned, densely black-hirsute, 6-7 mm long. Spikelets c. 6 mm long. Glumes densely blackish-hirsute, 2.5-4.5 mm long. Achene broadly ovoid to globose, 1.2-1.5 mm x 1 mm, glabrous, smooth, grey or grey-brown.
Perennial herb, up to 0.7 m high. Leaves crowded towards base of culm. Plant sometimes with 1 or several soft, fleshy soboles arising from culm cluster. Inflorescence unbranched, with 4-15 clusters of 1-7 reflexed spikelets. Achene smooth. Glumes densely hairy, hairs purplish black, black in colour.