Perennial, tufted. Leaf blade narrowly linear to linear, expanded or rolled; ligule a fringe of hairs. Inflorescence an open or contracted, rarely spike-like panicle; spikelets solitary or in pairs, rarely in threes, pedicelled, pedicels free, stout, often of unequal lengths, usually longest pedicel +/- twice as long as shortest pedicel. Spikelet 6-28 mm long, usually brown, laterally to not noticeably compressed, disarticulating above glumes; glumes very unequal, chartaceous to coriaceous, 3-nerved, glabrous or coarsely hairy, hairs with black or brown tubercles, awnless or shortly awned; lower glume usually ovate or ovate-elliptic, acuminate, acute, obtuse or truncate, rarely setaceously acuminate, up to half as long as upper; upper glume linear-lanceolate or lanceolate, obtuse or truncate, less often acute and rarely setaceously acuminate, as long as or nearly as long as spikelet. Florets 2, lower floret male or rarely sterile; lemma 3-5-nerved; upper floret bisexual; lemma similar to firmer in texture than glumes, thinly coriaceous, linear to linear-lanceolate, rounded on back, 5-9-nerved, glabrous to hairy, hairs not in tufts, shortly or deeply 2-lobed, lobes obtuse or acute, awned from between 2 lobes or from apex; awn geniculate, strongly twisted below, up to 4 times as long as spikelet; callus short to long, oblong to linear, truncate, 2-toothed or obliquely pungent, hairy; palea linear to linear-lanceolate, shorter or up to as long as lemma, 2-keeled, keels with thickened nerves, wingless, membranous. Lodicules 2, linear or narrowly cuneate. Stamens 2 or 3. Ovary glabrous; styles free, plumose. Caryopsis narrowly ovoid. x= 6, 12 (polyploidy).