It is a variable, tufted grass with grey-green leaves and tall, downy stems. The pinkish-red flowers are tightly packed to begin with, until they spread and open out in two-flowered spikelets. It is a perennial grass, and grows up to 1m tall.
It flowers from May to August, and is found in meadows, woodland margins and openings, and wasteground. It is a common and widespread species.