Tufted perennials or sometimes annuals with wiry culms. Leaf-blades linear, flat or involute, sparsely to densely hairy, the hairs usually glandular. Inflorescence a terminal panicle, usually contracted or speciform, rarely open. Spikelets 3-6-flowered, the lowest 1-3 bisexual (African and Asian species 3 - rarely 4-5 - flowered, the lowest bisexual, the second usually male, the upper 1 or 2 represented only by a lemma and often reduced to a brush-like appendage). Glumes lanceolate, membranous, sparsely hairy on the outer surface, the upper slightly longer than the lower and almost as long as the spikelet. Lemmas broad, chartaceous, outer surface sparsely hairy all over or the upper half almost glabrous or the lower half with dense silky hairs, 9-awned, the awns forming continuations of some of the nerves. Awns 3-5 times as long as the lemma, ciliate for much of their length and usually scaberulous at the tip, sometimes scaberulous throughout. Palea hyaline, oblong, slightly longer than the body of the lemma, 2-keeled, often ciliate along the keels. Stamens 3.