Similar to the typical variety in all respects except for the squarrose spreading leaves that give the plants a very distinctive appearance. Macroscopically the plants resemble Bartramia capensis but are easily separated from that species by differences in leaf cells, serration of the leaf margins and bistratose lamina.
Plants medium-sized, looselv caespitose, green to yellow-green or reddish above, brownish to blackish brown below; terricolous or saxicolous. Stems erect, 10-30 mm tall, sparsely branched, reddish tomentum on lower stem; in section round, central strand present, inner cortical cells in 68 rows, thin-walled, yellowish, outer cortical cells in 2 rows, cells small, stereids or substereids, reddish to dark red, epidermal cells not differentiated. Leaves squarrose-recurved dry, wide-spreading to squarrose wet; mostly 3-5 mm long, ventral surface flat over costa, lamina bistratose juxtacostally and in irregular patches just above base, completely bistratose in upper leaf; apex subulate; margins reflexed to recurved, doubly denticulate in subula by large, smooth, clear cells, distinct from laminal cells. Costa short-excurrent as denticulate awn, occasionally reddish below, ventral superficial cells rectangular, prorate to sharply dentate in upper subula; in section bulging dorsally, subtriangular, guide cells 6, small but distinct, ventral stereid to substereid band 1-3 cells thick, ventral surface cells smaller than guide cells, incrassate, prorate, dorsal stereid to substereid band strong, 3-4 cells thick, dorsal surface cells incrassate, prorate. Laminal cells rectangular, 1.5-3.0: 1, weakly thickened, strongly or weakly prorate distally and/or proximally; basal cells long-rectangular, to 10: 1, thin-walled, smooth, yellowish; alar cells weakly differentiated, quadrate, clear. Perigonia terminal, gemmate. Perichaetia terminal, becoming lateral through innovation; leaves similar to vegetative leaves, elliptical-subulate. Sporophytes rare. Seta 7 mm long, yellowish; capsule inclined, urn subglobose, 2 mm long, rugulose dry, red-brown; exothecial cells subhexagonal, thickened in comers; stomata present at base of urn, phaneropore; peristome double, exostome teeth 16, narrowly triangular, 0.3 mm long, papillose, reddish yellow, endostome rudimentary, irregular and very short, attached to teeth, smooth; operculum not seen; young calyptra cucullate, smooth; spores rounded, 12-18 µm, warty, yellowish.