Stems often short, but to 2 cm in sterile plants. Stem leaves oblong-lanceolate to long-lanceolate, occasionally ovate, mostly 1.5-3.5 mm, distal lamina 1-stratose, margins recurved in proximal 3/4 of leaf or to apex, entire or 1-3 toothed at apex, acute to broadly acute apically; costa percurrent or ending 1-4 cells before the apex, not much widened or tapering, usually 4-6 epidermal cells wide at mid leaf, adaxial surface of the costa weakly convex or concave; proximal leaf cells rectangular throughout the sheathing base, those in 1-4 marginal rows often narrow, the medial cells usually 3-4:1. Specialized asexual reproduction absent. Sexual condition synoicous, paroicous, polygamous or rhizautoicous. Capsule theca 0.8-2.2 mm, operculum 0.3-1 mm, peristome teeth 16, irregularly cleft, 100-220 µm or occasionally rather short, smooth. Spores 14-17 µm.
Capsules mature summer-fall (Jun-Sep). Soil, rock (limestone, dolomite, gypsum, siliceous), mortar of wall, bark, in tussock tundra, alpine meadows, bluffs, forested and boggy areas, stream banks, lake shores; low to high elevations (20-3800 m); Greenland; Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld. and Labr., N.W.T., N.S., Nunavut, Ont., Que., Yukon; Alaska, Ariz., Colo., Conn., Idaho, Iowa, Mich., Minn., Mont., Nebr., Nev., N.Y., Oreg., S.Dak., Utah, Vt., Wash., Wis., Wyo.; Mexico; Central America; n South America; Eurasia; Africa; Pacific Islands (New Zealand); Australia.