Stems to ca. 6 cm, occasionally longer. Sexual condition paro-icous. Seta to 2 cm, straight to somewhat flexuose, smooth, red or reddish brown, occasionally yellowish brown. Capsule brown, 1-2 mm, erect, cylindric to ovoid-cylindric, straight to weakly arcuate, becoming ± wrinkled when dry; operculum to 0.5 mm; peristome teeth evenly spaced, lanceolate, divided nearly to the base into 2(-3) filaments, smooth to papillose or sometimes ± striolate. Spores densely and finely papillose, 15-25 µm.
Capsules mature summer-fall. Soil, rock, crevices, ledges, banks, occasionally bark; Greenland; Alta, B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld. and Labr., N.W.T., N.S., Nunavut, Ont., Que., Sask., Yukon; Alaska, Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Ind., Iowa, Maine, Mich., Mont., Nev., N.H., N.Mex., N.Y., N.Dak., Oreg., S.Dak., Utah, Vt., Wash., Wis., Wyo.; Mexico; Central America; South America; Eurasia; n, c, e, se Asia; Africa; Pacific Islands; Australia; Arctic; Antarctic.
Plants of Distichium capillaceum form dense, rather silky tufts and the slender, spreading, distichous leaves with shiny, whitish, oblong, sheathing bases are characteristic. This is a taller species than D. inclinatum, with plants less crowded, capsules erect-symmetrical and cylindric, and spores smaller. In more northerly or alpine regions with more severe climatic conditions, the plants are often shorter, more compact, and have shorter leaves.