Plants cespitose or not, short-rhizomatous. Culms solitary or not, erect, (25-)40-90(-110) cm. Leaves 6-12; basal sheaths purplish red; sheath of distal leaf 0-1.5(-2.5) cm; ligules rounded, 2.5-6 mm; blades 12-34 cm × 4-11 mm. Inflorescences 2.5-17 cm; peduncles of proximal pistillate spikes 0.7-3.5 cm, basal 2 peduncles 1-4(-12) cm apart; peduncle of terminal spike 0.5-6 cm; bracts leafy, usually sheathless, blades 8-26 cm × 2-7 mm. Spikes: proximal pistillate spikes 1-2(-3), densely (4-)8-35-flowered, separate to aggregated, globular, 2.5-4.2 × 2.6-4.1 cm; terminal staminate spike 1, 0.5-6.5 cm × 1-4 mm. Pistillate scales 1-5-veined, lanceolate-ovate to ovate-orbicular, 4-11 × 2-4.2 mm, apex obtuse to awned, awn to 7 mm, rough. Anthers 3, 2.5-4.8 mm. Perigynia radiating out in all directions, strongly 16-25-veined, rhombic-ovoid, 12.5-20 × 4-8 mm, base cuneate, dull, glabrous or, sometimes, hispidulous; beak poorly defined, 1.5-3 mm. Achenes sessile, ellipsoid to obovoid, faces convex, angles not thickened, 3.3-4.8 × 2.6-3.7 mm; style withering. Fruiting May-Aug. Mesic to wet deciduous forests, forest openings, usually on fine alluvial or lacustrine deposits, riverbottoms; 0-500 m; Ont., Que.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tenn., Vt., Va., Wis. Pubescence on the perigynia of Carex grayi is most frequently found in plants from the Midwest and South.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Common, but local, in low rich woods and on banks of creeks and borders of swamps. Widely distributed in the state but generally not found in abundance at any one locality. It is one of the most conspicuous of the sedges and so is apt to be collected more often than some of the inconspicuous species which may be actually more common. The form known as var. hispidula shows no geographic segregation and doubtless does not merit even formal recognition. J. K. Underwood, of the University of Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station, writes that he has observed the same plants which one year had hispidulous perigynia to be perfectly glabrous the next season.
Stems 3-9 dm, solitary or in small clusters, scabrous on the angles above; rhizomes wanting; basal sheaths persistent, purplish-red; lvs 4-11 mm wide, the uppermost nonbracteal one (as also the bracts) sheathless or with a sheath seldom over 1 cm; terminal spike staminate, 0.5-5.5 cm, on a peduncle of 0.5-6 cm; pistillate spikes 1 or 2, densely fld, globular, ±approximate, on peduncles 0.7- 3.5 cm, their bracts leafy, 8-26 cm; pistillate scales 4-11 mm, lance-ovate to orbicular-ovate, often tipped with a rough awn to 7 mm; perigynia 8-35, radiating in all directions from the short axis, dull, sometimes hispidulous, 12.5-20 נ4-8 mm, strongly 16-25-nerved, rhombic-ovoid, cuneate to the base, tapering from the widest point to a poorly defined, bidentate beak 1.5-3 mm, the teeth hispidulous internally; achene 3.3-4.8 נ2.6-3.7 mm, convexly trigonous, not thickened on the angles; style persistent but withering, sometimes contorted; 2n=52, 54. Moist woods; Mass., Vt., s. Que., and s. Ont. to Wis. and se. Minn., s. to Ga. and Mo.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.