This species has hitherto been confused with S. natalensis from which it is distinguished by its bulbously thickened culm-bases; its subulate leaf and bract-apices 1-2 mm broad in the distal 10 mm; its relatively dense inflorescences with 1-2 lateral panicles per node; its bright terra-cotta red glumes and its barrel-shaped achenes.
Perennial. Rhizome little more than the connective between contiguous, woody, swollen culm bases; scales reddish-brown. Culms 0.5-1.25 m tall with bases 8-10 mm thick; glabrous. Leaves 4-10 mm broad, subulate, glabrous; sheath with mouth produced into a deltoid-rounded tongue 2-5 mm long with a membranous extension up to 1 mm long. Inflorescence with terminal panicle 45-90 x 20-45 mm and smaller lateral panicles 1-2 per node at 1-2 nodes exserted 20-120 mm from sheaths. Bracts foliaceous, exceeding their panicles, subulate. Male spielets sessile or shortly pedicillate, 4-6 mm long; glumes reddish-brown, glabrescent. Female glumes reddish-brown with green midrib excurrent into an awn c. 1 mm long; 4-5 mm long. Achene oblong-subglobose, 2.5-3 x 2 mm, glabrous, tessellate-lacunose to tuberculate-lacunose, brownish-white: hypogynium obtusely trilobed, stramineous.
Perennial herb, up to 1.25 m high. Panicles dense, golden or reddish. Foliaceous bract of terminal panicle subulate, 1 or 2 mm broad, 10 mm behind apex, sometimes exceeding inflorescence. Culm bases 9-10 mm in diameter, swollen. Glumes reddish brown.