Annual or perennial, tufted, stoloniferous, usually creeping, rooting at nodes; culms and overlapping leaf sheaths usually compressed, abruptly contracted at base, often grouped in a fan-shaped arrangement; ligule a narrow, fringed membrane. Inflorescence mostly terminal, spike-like, secund, of several to many short racemes embedded in cavities in a thickened central axis, each raceme bearing up to 8 spikelets on a rachis that is usually produced beyond upper spikelet to a subulate tip; spikelets sessile to shortly pedicelled, falling entire at maturity or together with adjacent internode of central axis; lower glume abaxial. Spikelet dorsiventrally compressed, lanceolate or ovate, plump, awnless; glumes very unequal, dissimilar, membranous, awnless; lower glume generally shorter than spikelet, nerveless; upper glume similar to lower or +/- as long as spikelet, 5-9-nerved. Florets 2; lower floret male or sterile; lemma chartaceous to coriaceous, acute or acuminate, 3-9-nerved; palea well developed; upper floret bisexual; lemma firmer than glumes, not becoming indurated, similar to lower but smaller, faintly 3-5-nerved, glabrous, entire, margins inrolled and covering palea but leaving tip free, awnless; palea usually indurated, 2-nerved. Lodicules 2. Stamens 3. Ovary glabrous; styles free, plumose above. Caryopsis lanceolate to oblong, plano-convex. x= 9 (polyploidy).
Species 7, tropics and subtropics; 2 in sthn Afr.: Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt.) Kuntze mainly along coast from KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape to Western Cape with records in eastern Caprivi (Namibia) and S Mpumalanga; S. dimidiatum (L.) Brongn. sporadic in N KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.
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