Identifying Grass Seedlings

Ryegrass, annual or Italian (Lolium multiflorum)

Winter annual grasses


Annual ryegrass is a winter annual grass that may reach 3 feet in height. Leaves are rolled in the bud with conspicuous clawlike auricles in the collar region. Leaf blades are 2½–8 inches long, 4–10 mm wide when mature, and have a membranous ligule. Leaves usually have a glossy appearance on the lower surfaces, and leaf sheaths are often tinged red at the base. The seedhead is a spike (4–16 inches long) with spikelets that have long awns arranged alternately up the stem.

SeedheadSeedhead: awns arranged alternately.

Collar region SeedlingCollar region: clawlike auricles and membranous ligule.
Right, annual ryegrass seedling.


Annual ryegrass occurs primarily as a weed of small grains and no-till cropping systems.


Annual ryegrass occurs primarily in the southern half of Missouri but can occur throughout the United States and is often planted for various purposes.

Similar species

Perennial ryegrass is similar but has a perennial growth habit and is generally smaller than annual ryegrass. Tall fescue and quackgrass also have auricles, but these are perennials that occur in the summer, unlike annual ryegrass, which has a winter annual growth habit.