Rhodes grass is a perennial or annual tropical grass. It is a leafy grass, 1-2 m in height, highly variable in habit. The culms are tufted or creeping, erect or decumbent, sometimes rooting from the nodes. The roots are very deep, down to 4.5 m. The leaves are linear, with flat or folded glabrous blades, 12-50 cm long x 10-20 mm wide, tapering at the apex. The seed head has an open hand shape and encompasses 2-10 one-sided or double-sided racemes, 4-15 cm long. The inflorescences are light greenish brown (rarely yellow) in colour, and turn darker brown as they mature. The spikelets (over 32) are densely imbricated and have two awns. The fruit is a caryopsis, longitudinally grooved.