Stems to 20 mm, central strand absent. Leaves oblong to elliptic, 4-6 mm, apices broadly acute to rounded, mucronate to cuspidate, margins recurved below mid-leaf; costa excurrent or subpercurrent, narrow; laminal cells 10-20 µm,; basal cells rectangular, 50-120 µm, smooth; basal marginal cells weakly differentiated below, in 4-8 rows, elongate, smooth. Specialized asexual reproduction absent. Seta 4-14 mm, yellow to yellowish brown. Capsule cylindric, 2-3 mm, smooth, constricted below mouth, yellowish brown, exothecial cells rectangular, 50-120 µm; peristome single, yellowish red to hyaline, 16 teeth, lanceolate, to 0.3 mm high, papillose, erect; operculum 1-1.5 mm. Calyptra 3-7 mm, fringed at base, smooth or rarely papillose at apex. Spores 30-40 µm, plicae and pitted, brownish yellow.
Crevices of acid or neutral rock or soils in sheltered or exposed situations; Greenland; Alta., B.C., N.B., Nfld. and Labr. (Labr.), N.S., Ont., Que., Yukon; Alaska, Ariz., Calif., Colo., Ill., Maine, Mich., Minn., Mont., Nebr., N.H., N.Mex., N.Y., N.Dak., Oreg., Pa., S.Dak., Utah, Vt., Wash., Wis., Wyo.; Mexico; West Indies; South America; Europe; Asia; Africa.
Encalypta ciliata is among the most variable species of the genus in leaf shape, apex development, and costae length. A combination of excurrent costa, smooth capsule wall, and single peristome will serve to identify it.