Plants caespitose or tangled. Rhizomes rarely present. Culms terete, compressed or 4-sided, generally branching. Leafsheaths persistent, convolute, +/- mucronate or aristate, rarely prolonged into a foliaceous mucro. Maleinflorescence similar to female, or very different, often with smaller spikelets, usually with more bracts fertile. Malespikelets usually many, in paniculate or spicate cymes, occasionally solitary and terminal, usually with many florets, each with a spathe or sheath at its base; bracts usually many and imbricate, few to many fertile; perianth of 4 or 6 segments in 2 series, usually compressed, sometimes 3-sided; segments generally unequal, rigid or membranous; outer lateral ones conduplicate, boat-shaped, often villous and keeled; anterior segments flattened or rounded; inner usually smaller, thinner and flattened; stamens exserted from florets at anthesis, anthers oblong, apiculate or muticous; ovary rudimentary or 0. Femaleinflorescence similar to male, or very different, often with larger spikelets; spikelets 1-many, variously arranged; spathes generally smaller than spikelets, sometimes much larger. Femalespikelets: bracts various, usually several, occasionally 1 fertile, usually with some sterile bracts at base; perianth segments osseous, outer lateral ones keeled, keels often woolly; staminodes well developed; ovary 1-3-locular, styles 3, plumose, exserted from bracts at anthesis. Fruit capsular, compressed, 3-sided, (1)2- or 3-seeded; seeds rough with various raised patterns or smooth. x= 7, 11, 12 (polyploidy).
Species +/- 150, sthn Afr., tropical Africa and Australia; +/- 89 in sthn Afr., mainly Western Cape, also extending to Northern Cape (Namaqualand), Eastern Cape and reaching KwaZulu-Natal.