Annual or perennial. Leaf blade linear to linear-lanceolate, usually expanded; ligule an unfringed membrane. Inflorescence a densely contracted or spike-like, rarely open panicle; spikelets solitary, shortly pedicelled. Spikelet small, 1-4 mm long, +/- laterally compressed, narrowly oblong to oblong, falling with glumes, and with pedicel or part of it; glumes +/- equal, longer than spikelet, lanceolate, similar, membranous, 1-nerved, lightly keeled, hairy on keel, entire or shortly 2-lobed, awnless to awned; awn sometimes short and inconspicuous. Floret 1, bisexual; lemma less firm than glumes, hyaline, lanceolate or broadly oblong, rounded, glabrous, 5-nerved, truncate or 2-lobed, mucronate, awnless or awned, awned usually from near apex; awn very fine, shorter than to as long as lemma, sometimes inconspicuous, often deciduous; palea delicate, slightly to much shorter than lemma, acute, 2-keeled. Lodicules 2, delicate, membranous, glabrous. Stamens 3. Ovary glabrous; styles distinct, short, plumose. Caryopsis ellipsoid. x= 7 (10) (high polyploidy).
Species +/- 18, tropics and warm temperate regions; +/- 3 in sthn Afr., 1 endemic in Western and Eastern Cape, the rest widespread.