Herbs, 5-50 cm, papillose to hispid or, occasionally, glabrous. Stems erect to ascending, branched from base; branches arcuate or, occasionally, almost prostrate. Leaves alternate; blade linear, mostly 1-2 mm wide in herbarium specimens, fleshy, usually not swollen at base, apex ± acuminate into rather firm, 1-1.5(-2.2) mm spine. Inflorescences interrupted at maturity, usually 1-flower per axil of bract; bracts alternate, not imbricate at maturity, reflexed, not distinctly swollen at base, apex narrowing into subulate spine. Flowers: bracteoles free or becoming connate and adnate to perianth base; perianth segments with comparatively narrow wing or in lower flowers occasionally wingless (in S. kali subsp. pontica sometimes prominently winged), with weak or firm, acute apex, glabrous; fruiting perianth 4-6(-8) mm diam. 2n = 36.