Culms and leaves with non-Kranz anatomy (C3). Inflorescences: spikes; rachilla persistent, wingless. Spikelets borne in digitate clusters (rarely singly) or in umbellate or glomerulate heads; floral scales deciduous, 2-keeled or folded (conduplicate). Flowers: stamens 1–3; stigmas 3. Achenes trigonous, plano-convex, or terete.


Species ca. 150 (22 in the flora).

The greatest species diversity of Cyperus subg. Pycnostachys is found in the lowland forests of Central America, South America, Africa, and Malesia.