Plants annual; tufted, salt tolerant. Culms 2-45 cm, erect to prostrate, sometimes branched above the base; nodes glabrous, generally purple; internodes hollow. Leaves not basally aggregated; sheaths not keeled; auricles sometimes present; ligules 0.3-2.3 mm, membranous, truncate; blades 0.3-3.5 mm wide, linear, flat to convolute. Inflorescences terminal and auxillary, spikes, often curved, with solitary spikelets sunk into the rachis; disarticulation in the rachis below each spikelet. Spikelets tangential to the rachis, cylindric, straight to strongly curved, with 1 floret; rachillas sometimes prolonged beyond the distal floret. Glumes 2, subequal, lying side-by-side, usually exceeding or only slightly shorter than the floret and covering the rachis cavities, sometimes asymmetric and winged, coriaceous, with conspicuous veins, margins translucent, apices unawned; lemmas 3.5-5.5 mm, membranous, translucent, glabrous, rounded on the back, 1-3-veined, unawned; paleas more or less equal to the lemmas, translucent; anthers 3; styles 2, free to the bases, white; lodicules ovate-acute. Caryopses 3-3.6 mm, narrowly ovoid to ellipsoid. x = 7, 9, 19. Name from the Greek para, beside, and pholis, scale, referring to the two side-by-side glumes.
Spikelets 1-fld, solitary, alternate, sessile and sunken in concavities of the rachis, forming a terete slender spike; glumes 2, borne side by side and covering the cavity except at anthesis, strongly 5-veined, coriaceous, the outer margins indurate, the overlapping inner margins scarious; lemma lanceolate, scarious, concealed by and much shorter than the glumes, with its back to the rachis, 3-veined, the lateral veins very short; palea scarious, barely shorter than the lemma; rachis disarticulating at maturity below each spikelet; annuals with overlapping sheaths and elongate spikes. 5, Eurasia.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.