Plant epiphytic or terrestrial. Stem elliptical in transverse section, of several enlarged internodes, each covered by a semi-transparent leaf sheath, giving rise to distinct venation on stem, bearing leaves on upper half of stem or a few leaves near apex. Leaves linear, lanceolate or narrowly elliptical, mostly coriaceous and without a distinct petiole. Inflorescence an axillary, erect or nodding raceme, leaving a pit on stem when shed, axis usually with scalelike, brown hairs; floral bracts conspicuous. Flower colour variable. Sepals densely pubescent to sparingly pubescent on back. Dorsal sepal narrowly triangular or narrowly elliptical. Lateral sepals triangular, ventrally broadened at base, attached to column foot to form a mentum. Petals similar in size and colour to dorsal sepal. Labellum trilobed, hinged at base to column foot, usually adorned with papillose keels of various length and numbers. Column with a foot; anther cap easily detached, pollinia eight, clavate.
Plants of Pinalia inhabit a range of habitats from sea level to 3300 m but are particularly frequent between 600 and 3300 m. Most species in Borneo and New Guinea occur at intermediate elevations. They are usually branch and trunk epiphytes (sometimes lithophytes) in lowland and hill dipterocarp, lower and upper montane, and kerangas forest on podsols and are also known from warm temperate evergreen, riverine, and secondary forests and on damp cliffs and rocks. Pinalia acervata Kuntze is recorded from north-facing slopes between 330 and 3000 m in Bhutan and Sikkim. Pinalia alba Buch.-Ham. grows on Quercus griffithii Hook.f. & Thomson ex Miq. (Fagaceae) and Pinus wallichiana A.B.Jackson (Pinaceae) in Bhutan (Pearce and Cribb 2002).