Plants colonial from long-creeping rhizomes. Culms solitary or few together, 5-35(-70) cm, usually not more than 1 mm diam. basally; basal sheaths persistent, brown or reddish, septate-nodulose. Leaves: blades channeled or strongly involute, 3-12 cm; distal leaves usually bladeless with black-tipped sheath. Inflorescences: involucre absent. Spikelets solitary, erect, broadly obovoid to subglobose in fruit, 8-12(-40) mm; scales gray to blackish green; proximal empty scales not more than 7, ovate, 4-10 mm, midrib not reaching tip; distal scales narrower, more attenuate, margins hyaline, not more than 1 mm wide. Flowers: perianth bristles 10 or more, bright white, sometimes red-tinged, 15-30 mm, smooth; anthers 0.5-1.5 mm. Achenes narrowly oblong, 0.4-2.5 mm, apex with subulate beak. 2n = 58. Fruiting summer. Tundra, wet peat, marshy ground, peaty soils, riverbanks, lake and pond shores; 0-3000 m; Greenland; Alta., B.C., Nfld. and Labr., N.W.T., Nunavut, Ont., Que., Sask., Yukon; Alaska, Colo., Mont., Utah, Wash., Wyo.; Eurasia. Eriophorum scheuchzeri var. tenuifolium Ohwi does not appear to be differentiated based on the North American specimens examined.