Wiry caespitose perennial. Stems 20-75 cm, erect or geniculate-ascending, smooth, glabrous. Leaf sheaths smooth, uppermost well below panicle at anthesis; blades 0.8-3 mm broad, scabrid towards apex, glabrous or minutely hairy. Panicle spike-like, narrowly oblong, 20-90 x 2-12 mm, erect or slightly curved, 1-sided, with flat flexuous axis and very short branches, green or purplish. Fertile spikelets oblong or cuneate, 3-5 mm, 2-5-flowered; glumes 3-4.5 mm, minutely awned; lower lemma rounded on back, 2.7-3.5 mm , ± hairy, with awn to 1 mm; upper lemma similar but slightly shorter. Sterile spikelets concealing the fertile ones, ovate, compressed, 3-6 mm, composed of up to 18 rigid, narrowly linear, 1-veined, bract-like glumes and shortly awned, membranous lemmas with green, ciliate keel. Fl. 5-10. Picea woodland, phrygana, wheatfields, hillsides, damp meadows, by pools, 60-2200 m.
Most of Europe, Caucasia, N. Iran , Azores; introduced in N. America, Australia and New Zealand. Euro-Sib. element.