Tufted or rhizomatous perennials (rarely annuals), foliage not aromatic. Culm internodes solid; nodes glabrous. Ligule membranous, sometimes fringed. Inflorescence a panicle of paired (rarely digitate or solitary) racemes, each pair or group of pairs of racemes subtended by a spathe-like bract, raceme bases not deflexing at maturity. Spikelets paired, the upper one pedicellate and male or barren, occasionally lacking; glumes membranous, those of the sessile bisexual spikelet dorsally compressed, the lower glume 2-keeled; sterile lemma unawned; fertile lemma bilobed with an awn inserted within the notch; palea unawned, shorter than lemma to vestigial or absent.
About 100 species, mostly tropical (North and South America, Africa, Asia etc.); 3 naturalised in Australia, 1 in Victoria.