Tufted or rhizomatous annuals or perennials; annuals often amphicarpous (i.e. with basal spikelets hidden amongst leaf-sheaths). Culms nodeless, terete to triquetrous, glabrous. Leaves mostly reduced to a mucro on a sheath, occasionally a longer blade present; ligule membranous. Aerial inflorescence pseudolateral, umbel-like or head-like or a single spikelet; lowest involucral bract culm-like, usually erect. Spikelets usually sessile, many-flowered; hypogynous bristles 2–6, filiform and retrorsely scabrous, or flattened and irregularly plumose; stamens 2 or 3; style 2- or 3-fid. Nuts lenticular or trigonous, smooth or transversely rugose. Basal spikelets with longer, 3-fid styles and larger nuts.
A cosmoplitan genus of c. 30 species; 4 species in Australia (in all States).
Previously more broadly circumscribed to include the smaller perennials and annuals that are now placed in Schoenoplectiella.
Wilson, K.L. (1981). A synopsis of the genus Scirpus sens. lat. (Cyperaceae) in Australia, Telopea 2(2): 153-172.