V. ciliata was probably under-recorded in the 1962 Atlas. However, several new roadside populations of subsp. ambigua have been found since 1980, suggesting that it may be spreading in some areas (e.g. New Forest, S. Hants.). It was discovered in N. Wales in 1991.
Stems up to 50 cm, erect or ascending, corrugated, smooth. Leaf blades up to 13 cm long and 0.2–0.5 (-2) mm wide. Panicles or clusters 1–14 cm, linear-oblong. Spikelets 5–10 mm, with 1–3 fertile flowers and 3–7 upper sterile flowers. It blooms from April to June.