Ryegrass, Annual (Italian Ryegrass)
[Lolium multiflorum Lam.]
Annual ryegrass, also referred to as Italian ryegrass, is a bunch-type grass that can be used as a nurse crop for quick cover or for winter overseeding of bermudagrass on low maintenance athletic fields or golf courses. It does not possess the quality of perennial ryegrass and is not recommended for sites where high quality turf is desired. However, it is very inexpensive and can be used on low profile fields such as school, park or recreation sites where winter color is desirable. Its seedhead can be confused with that of quackgrass. Annual ryegrass does not have rhizomes, whereas quackgrass does. Annual ryegrass can be easily confused with tall fescue. However, tall fescue has rough leaf blade margins on the lower 1/3 - 1/2 of the leaf whereas annual ryegrass has smooth ones. Tall fescue has non-clasping auricles, whereas annual ryegrass has clasping auricles. The backside of the tall fescue leaf blade is less glossy than that of annual ryegrass.
Seedhead / Flower
a spike, with spikelets along the main stem
leaves rolled in the bud
membranous; blunt, 0.04 - 0.08 inches (1 - 2 mm) long
Growth Season / Life Cycle
cool season turf or winter annual weed
pointed or blunt or claw-like, clasping
Leaf Blade Tip Shape
sharp-pointed; bright green, upper surface dull, deeply ridged, lower surface smooth, glossy and slightly creased, edges smooth
Leaf Blade Width
0.1 - 0.28 inches (3 - 7 mm) wide
continuous; indistinct, not hairy
split with overlapping margins
round; pinkish at base
annual ryegrass, clasping auricles
annual ryegrass leaf edge
Note: Still not sure this is the right turfgrass? The Turf & Weed Identification Decision Aid may help. Check the TurfFiles glossary for definitions of unfamiliar terms.
Need help in selecting the best turfgrass for your particular situation? The Turf/Cultivar Selection Decision Aid will help you sort through the options which are available. For more information on turfgrass/cultivar selection, establishing a new lawn, caring for a new lawn, or renovating a lawn, see AG-69, Carolina Lawns.
© North Carolina State University. This information sheet was prepared by Arthur H. Bruneau, Bridget R. Lassiter, Gail G. Wilkerson, Emily J. Erickson, Casey Reynolds, Jenifer J. Reynolds, and Gregory S. Buol. Department of Crop Science, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, North Carolina State University. Prepared April 29, 2008. Available on-line at www.turffiles.ncsu.edu. This publication was made possible through a grant provided by the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research & Education (CENTERE) whose purpose is to support worthwhile projects that will benefit both the private sector and the public, and protect the environment.