Plants cespitose, short-rhizomatous. Culms 18-80 cm. Leaves 2.5-11.5 mm wide, sparingly scabrous. Spikes 3-7(-9), erect; lateral spikes pistillate with few staminate flowers at base and rarely also at apex, narrowly elliptic, 12-50 × 7-13 mm; terminal spike usually staminate, sometimes gynecandrous, pistillate, or abortive, 6-45 × 2-6 mm. Pistillate scales narrow, with indistinct body, 3.6-9(-11) × 0.1-0.4 mm, apex with long, scabrous awn exceeding perigynium. Staminate scales loosely to irregularly imbricate with tips spreading, linear, 4.3-15 × 0.3-0.8 mm, apex with long, scabrous awn. Perigynia horizontal, 3.5-6 × 1.4-2.6 mm, minutely pustulate; beak 1.3-2.2 mm, smooth. Achenes obovoid, sides strongly concave, 1.4-2.1 × 1-1.4 mm, less than 2 times as long as wide; style deciduous, straight or sinuous. Fruiting summer. Wet meadows and woods, muddy margins of lakes and ponds, roadside ditches; 0-1500 m; Ont.; Ala., Ark., Del., D.C., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Md., Mich., Mo., Nebr., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tenn., Va., W.Va. Carex frankii and the similar C. aureolensis are two of the most easily recognized species of sedge; they are identified by the approximate, erect pistillate spikes and the long-awned pistillate scales that exceed the perigynia bodies.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Not known from the two northern tiers of counties. Except in the lake and prairie areas very common in ditches and low roadsides and on banks of creeks; frequent in swamps, low flat woods, ravines, marshes, and wet fallow fields.
Stems 2-8 dm, in small tufts on rather short rhizomes, aphyllopodic; lvs to 1 cm wide, the ligule shorter to somewhat longer than wide; terminal spike 0.5-3 cm, usually wholly staminate, rather short-peduncled, often concealed among the pistillate ones, or short-peduncled and exsert; pistillate spikes 3-6, usually approximate or crowded, sometimes separate or the lower remote, cylindric or elliptic, 1.5-3 נ1 cm, very dense, rounded at both ends, sessile or nearly so; bracts lf-like, 2-4 times as long as the infl at least the lower strongly sheathing; pistillate scales with concealed body and an exsert slender awn equaling or surpassing the perigynium-beaks; perigynia obconic, inflated, the body 2.2-3.6 mm, with 2 strong ribs and ca 10-18 fine sharp nerves, depressed-truncate above and very abruptly beaked, the beak 1.3-2.3 mm its teeth 0.5 mm; achene loosely enveloped, obovoid-trigonous, 1.5-2 mm, with a persistent straight style. Swamps and wet woods; Va. to w. N.Y., s. Ont., Mich., and se. Nebr., s. to Ga. and Tex
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.