Stems 8-25 mm. Leaves clasping at base, infolded and twisted around the stem when dry, squarrose-recurved when moist, lingulate-ovate, 2.5-3.5 × 1-1.2 mm, canaliculate to keeled; margins tightly revolute in the proximal 3/4; apices acute to acuminate; costa excurrent into a serrulate or sometimes serrate, hyaline awn that is often red at base or throughout but sometimes broadly hyaline at base, papillose abaxially and sometimes serrulate near the apex because of projecting cell ends, red-brown; basal cells abruptly differentiated, rectangular, 45-100 × 16-23 µm, quadrate to narrowly rectangular at the margins; distal cells quadrate, polygonal, or rectangular, 13-18 µm, with 3-6 papillae per cell, bulging, somewhat collenchymatous. Specialized asexual reproduction absent. Sexual condition dioicous. Seta brown, 15-20 mm. Capsule red-brown, 3-4 mm, slightly curved, with an abrupt neck; operculum ca. 1.8 mm, brown; peristome ca. 1.8 mm, the upper divisions twisted ca. 2 turns, red, the basal membrane white, 1/3-1/2 the total length. Spores 11-15 µm, papillose.
Soil, rocks; high elevations; Greenland; Alta., B.C., Ont.; Alaska, Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Mich., Mont., Nev., N.Mex., Oreg., Wash.; Mexico; n, c Europe; Asia; Africa (South Africa).
Syntrichia norvegica can be distinguished from S. ruralis by its larger laminal cells, leaf margins less recurved distally, and apices consistently acute to acuminate. The awn is often partially to completely red, but the amount of color seems to vary with shade and is not considered definitive. Another potential recognition feature in the field is that the stereid band in the costa often disappears near the apex, making the normally reddish costa appear green just before the awn. Note that there are frequent neotenic forms of this species that lack an awn.