Plants to 6 mm (or rarely, when sterile, to 30 mm), in dull, yellow-brown tufts. Leaves 2.5-3 mm, erect-spreading and flexuose or secund, linear-lanceolate, gradually subulate, slenderly acute or ± blunt; margins erect, entire or slightly serrulate near the apex; costa long-excurrent, occupying about 1/2 the leaf base; distal cells long-rectangular, 5-10:1. Sexual condition dioicous. Seta 5-6(-12) mm, yellow, becoming brownish with age. Capsule 0.7-1 mm, nodding and curved-asymmetric, short-oval, strumose, furrowed when dry and empty; annulus a single row of small, persistent cells; operculum slenderly long-rostrate, curved; peristome teeth 270-350 µm, divided 1/2 length distally or more. Spores 16-21 µm, smooth to indistinctly roughened.
Capsules mature summer. Disturbed sand, clay, or peaty soil, often on roadbanks; low to medium elevations; Alta., B.C. , N.B., Nfld. and Labr. (Nfld.), N.W.T., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Yukon; Alaska, Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Ohio, W.Va., Wisc.; n, c Europe; Asia (Japan, e Russia).
The leaves of Dicranella cerviculata are not wide-spreading from a clasping base, and the perichaetial leaves are scarcely differentiated from stem leaves. The costa occupies about 1/2 of the leaf base. The nodding, asymmetric, strumose capsule becomes variously striate or furrowed when dry and empty. Bartleya ohioensis, known solely from sterile material from West Virginia and Ohio, differs from D. cerviculata only in having a somewhat better development of stereids in the costa. The report from Maryland (as B. ohioensis) was by H. Robinson and C. F. Reed (1987) and from Wisconsin by F. D. Bowers and S. K. Freckmann (1979). In Northwest Territories it is known only from Great Bear Lake and the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula.