Caespitose perennial, with creeping rhizomes. Stems 60-100 cm, erect, rather stout, smooth and glabrous. Leaf sheaths smooth; ligule 4-10 mm, membranous, becoming lacerate; blades 11-40 cm x 4-9 mm, linear, acuminate, flat, glabrous, scabrid on margins, closely veined. Panicle 8-30 x 1.5-6 cm, lanceolate-oblong, dense; branches to 11 em, aculeolate, patent. Spikelets 5-6 mm, densely clustered, purplish-brown or green. Glumes ± equal, lanceolate, acuminate; lower 1-veined, upper 3-veined. Lemma c. ½ as long as glumes, membranous, 3-veined, bifid, with a dorsal or subterminal awn ; callus hairs much exceeding lemma. Palea to 2/3 as long as lemma. Anthers 1.6-2.2 mm. Fl. 6-7. Water meadows, mountain slopes, Pinus forests, 465-3050 m.
N., W., C. & S. Europe, C. & S. Russia, Crimea, Caucasia, Iran, Transcaucasia, Turkestan, Afghanistan, E. Asia. Introduced in N. America. Euro-Sib. element.