Annuals or perennials. Leaves flat or folded, sometimes plicate. Ligule usually a ciliate rim. Inflorescence usually a panicle, either open or dense and spike-like; the spikelets subtended by 1 or more bristles which persist on the axis after the spikelets fall. Spikelets oblong to ovate, ± plano-convex, awnless; glumes unequal, the lower generally much smaller, ovate from a clasping base; lower floret male or barren, as long as the spikelet, herbaceous; upper lemma crustaceous, strongly convex on the back, often rugose.
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