Perennials, mostly tufted. Leaf-blades linear, often harsh and glaucous; ligule a short membrane or a line of hairs. Inflorescence a terminal panicle with whorls of slender persistent branches bearing terminal racemes; each raceme reduced to a triad of 1 sessile and 2 pedicelled spikelets with linear pedicels (rarely additional pairs of spikelets present), commonly the sessile spikelet pallid or yellowish with fulvous callus beard, and the pedicelled spikelets purple. Sessile spikelets ± laterally compressed; callus oblique, obtuse to pungent; lower glume cartilaginous, rounded on the back, sometimes spinulose on the margins; upper glume often awned; lower floret reduced to a hyaline lemma; upper lemma hyaline, bidentate or entire, with a glabrous or pubescent awn; palea hyaline, small or suppressed; caryopsis narrowly ellipsoid. Pedicelled spikelet male or barren, narrowly lanceolate, awned or awnless.