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Perennial or (in Mal.) annual herbs. Leaves very narrow, nearly always capillary; Inflorescence terminal, subtended by foliaceous involucral bracts, capitate or anthelate, sometimes reduced to a single spikelet. Flowers achlamydeous (hypogynous bristles or scales absent), bisexual, the uppermost often male or barren. Stamens 1-3;


America present, Asia-Tropical, Tropical Africa present, tropical and subtropical regions of the world present
Probably c. 100 spp. in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world; centres of development are tropical Africa and America; in Malesia only 3 spp., none of them common.


The Malesian spp. are easily recognized by the capillary leaves with Néerlle-like white hairs at the orifice of the sheaths, as well as by the peculiar button crowning the nut (like in Eleocharis, which is to Scirpus as Bulbostylis is to the closely related genus Fimbristylis).
SVENSON () attaches much value to the shape of the epidermal cells of the nut as a generic character (longitudinally elongated in Bulbostylis, isodiametric to horizontally elongated in Fimbristylis). This would, however, place the closely related B. barbata and B. puberula in different genera and Fimbristylis hispidula (p. 560, lacking the button on the nut!) in Bulbostylis, with which I do not agree.
It is somewhat doubtful whether the name Bulbostylis was validly published by KUNTH, who proceeded to describe the members of the genus as species of Isolepis, though he proposed Bulbostylis as a separate genus intermediate between Isolepis and Fimbristylis.