T: [California] San Gabriel Canyon, Feb 1861, W.H.Brewer 168; syn: US; San Bernardino Mtns, Jun 1891, S.B.Parish 2232; syn US; Los Angeles Co., Jun 1888, H.E.Hasse; syn: US; Jul 1890, H.E.Hasse; syn: US; 1891, H.E.Hasse; syn: US; Santa Catalina Is., Avalon, B.Trask; syn: US; San Diego Co., 1901, C.H.Merriam; syn: US; Orange Co., Jun 1901, L.R.Abrams 1752; syn: US.
Perennials, usually (50–) 100–210 (–300) cm tall, forming dense to loose stands; rhizome creeping, ±short- to long-noded, 6–11 mm diam. Stem leafless, terete, (2–) 4–7 mm thick, hard, grey-green; ridges (30–) 50–80, low but conspicuous; subepidermal sclerenchyma strands present, forming thin radial lamellae connected to vascular bundles, these in several circles; pith continuous but not dense, later becoming irregularly interrupted, of a network of imperfectly astericiform cells with rounded forms when young, degenerating in mature stems. Cataphylls usually 5–6; inner cataphylls 15–30 (–40) cm, ±lax, pale stramineous-brown with dark base; upper cataphylls with small awnlike blade. Lower bract 10–30 cm long, shorter than or exceeding inflorescence, hard and acute. Inflorescence pseudolateral, usually 10–15 cm long, very lax, many-flowered. Bracteoles ovate, c. 1 mm long, acute to subobtuse, pinkish-membranous to scarious. Outer tepals 3.5–5 mm long, usually slightly longer than inner ones, all lanceolate, obtuse to acutish, greenish to pale brown with membranous margins, loosely subtending capsule at maturity. Stamens 6; anthers 1.2–2.2 mm long; filaments 0.4–0.8 mm long; style 1–1.5 mm long; stigmas to c. 1.5 mm long. Capsule triseptate, rounded trigonous, ellipsoid to narrowly ovoid, 3–4 (–5) mm long, about equalling or shorter than perianth, subobtuse, mucronate, dark red-brown, shining. Seeds 0.5–0.8 mm long, obovoid to ellipsoid, dark amber; appendages absent.