Plants perennial, usually with rhizomes, forming clumps or
large colonies. Flowering stems glabrous, often horizontal at the base and
rooting at the lower nodes. Leaf sheaths glabrous or roughened. Leaf blades
flat or folded at maturity, glabrous or roughened. Spikelets ovate to linear in
outline, circular in cross‑section or flattened, disarticulating above
the glumes and between the florets, with 3–16 fertile florets with tips at
different levels, the sterile, terminal floret appearing similar in size and
shape to the fertile florets. Glumes 1‑nerved, glabrous, unequal in size.
Lemmas strongly 5‑ or 7‑nerved, awnless, glabrous, roughened, or
less commonly hairy. Paleas about as long as or longer than the lemmas. Stamens
2 or 3. Fruits elliptic in outline, slightly flattened, with a shallow,
longitudinal groove near the base, usually reddish brown to dark brown. Thirty‑five
to 40 species, North America, Europe, Asia, Australia.
Other species treated under Glyceria by Steyermark
(1963) have since been reclassified in the genera Puccinellia Parl. and Torreyochloa G.L. Church (both in the tribe Poeae). They differ most notably in
having open sheaths and 3‑nerved upper glumes. The seeds of some European
species of Glyceria are used for fodder and also ground into a flour for
human consumption. All of the species are important sources of food for
waterfowl and other wetland fauna.