Plants annual; tufted. Culms 10-75 cm, erect, puberulent below the nodes; nodes glabrous. Leaves mostly on the lower 1/2 of the culm; sheaths open, glabrous or sparsely pubescent; ligules hyaline, acute or obtuse, usually lacerate; blades flat initially, involute with age. Inflorescences open or contracted panicles, the spikelets borne near the ends of the branches on clavate pedicels. Spikelets laterally compressed, with 2-10 florets; disarticulation above the first florets and between the distal florets; rachillas prolonged beyond the uppermost floret, sometimes terminating in a reduced floret. Glumes unequal, lanceolate, hispidulous, similar in texture to the lemmas, margins scarious, apices acuminate; lower glumes 3-7-veined; upper glumes 3-9-veined; calluses of the lower florets shorter than those of the upper florets, almost glabrous, calluses of the upper florets with a dense tuft of white hairs; lemmas lanceolate, chartaceous, 5-veined, margins scarious, apices entire or bifid, awned or unawned; lowest lemmas with a straight, terminal awn or unawned; distal lemmas with a dorsal, geniculate awn; paleas shorter than the lemmas, membranous, keels ciliate distally; lodicules 2, membranous, glabrous, toothed or not toothed; anthers 3; ovaries glabrous. Caryopses glabrous; hila short. x = 7. Named for Etienne Pierre Ventenat (1757-1808), a French clergyman, librarian, and botanist.