Perennial with annual aerial parts. This is a morphologically variable species. Rhizome internodes may be so short that the plants appear caespitose or they may be slightly longer so that the culm bases are not contiguous. Subterranean propagative stems (soboles) may arise from the culm bases. Whereas rhizomes have amphivasal vascular bundles, those of soboles are collateral. Inflorescences may be simply glomerate-spicate or sparingly branched glomerate-spicate. Glumes may be dark or pale. S. dregeana Kunth, S. caespiiosa Welw. ex Ridl. and S. setulosa Boeck. were based on glabrescent plants with unbranched inflorescences and dark glumes; S. meyeriana Kunth on a very hairy plant with an unbranched inflorescence and pale glumes and S. holcoides Kunth on a hairy plant with a branched inflorescence and pale glumes. The achenes of the types are sparingly tuberculate distally and smooth proximally but gatherings of plants with wholly smooth achenes (Lubke 181), and of plants with achenes which are tuberculate distally and trabeculate proximally (Galpin 9104) exist. Tubercles, when present, are invariably best developed near the apex of the achene. This species is likely to be confused with S. sobolifer E. F. Franklin from which it is distinguished mainly by the presence of a true rhizome with amphivasal vascular bundles and by the absence of a pattern of ridges, troughs and fine transverse bars between the stipe and body of the achene.
Perennial with two different kinds of propagative stems. Rhizome little more than the connective between ± contiguous culm bases; scales reddish-brown. Soboles sometimes produced from culm bases, soft, terete, 10 mm long, with collateral vascular bundles. Culms 0.25-1 m tall, glabrous or glabrescent. Leaves 1-3 mm broad glabrescent or hirsute; mouth of sheath truncate, villous below. Inflorescence unbranched or branched, 10-100 mm long. Glomerules 1-11 per branch, of 1-8 sessile or subsessile spikelets. Bracts aristate, equalling the glomerules or the lowermost up to 35 mm long. Spikelets 4.5-6 mm long. Glumes 2.25-5 mm Long, glabrous or sparsely ciliate, shortly awned, blackish-red, red- brown or pale with red streaks. Achene ovoid, ellipsoid or subglobose, 1.5-2 x 1.2 mm, glabrous, smooth or tuberculate or trabeculate towards the apex, smooth at junction of stipe and body, grey.
Perennial herb, up to 1 m high. Culms clustered, sometimes with 1 or more soft, terete soboles from base of culm cluster. Rhizome very short. Inflorescence unbranched or with a few short basal branches. Achene smooth or tuber-culate or trabeculate towards apex. Glumes glabrous or sparsely ciliate, blackish red, red-brown or pale with streaks.