Annual or perennial, tufted, sometimes decumbent, long rhizomatous, rooting at nodes. Leaf blade expanded, long-linear usually auriculate; ligule a long, firm, unfringed membrane. Inflorescence an open or contracted panicle; spikelets solitary, shortly pedicelled; pedicels linear, somewhat cup-shaped at apex. Spikelet unconventional, strongly laterally compressed, scabrid to hispid; glumes 0 and represented by a small, 2-lobed cupule, or present and then +/- equal, reduced and small, suborbicular, thinly membranous, nerveless, acuminate, awnless. Florets 3, lower florets 2, sterile, reduced to narrow or bristle-like lemmas, much shorter than spikelet; upper floret bisexual; lemma coriaceous, oblong to elliptic, strongly keeled, rigidly ciliate, scabrid, rugose, strongly 3-9-nerved, apex obtuse or acute, (mucronate or awnless in cultivated forms) or awned; awn straight, sometimes flexous, much longer than body of lemma, 10-160 mm long, scabrid; palea as long as lemma and similar in texture, 3-nerved. Lodicules elliptic-lanceolate to obovate, 2-lobed, rarely entire. Stamens 6; anthers linear. Ovary glabrous; styles short, free; stigmas plumose. Caryopsis not grooved. x= 12 (polyploidy).
Species +/- 25, throughout tropics and subtropics; 3 in sthn Afr., northern regions of Namibia and Botswana, Northern Province, Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal.