Italian ryegrass is a major weed problem in wheat production worldwide. Field studies were conducted at Fayetteville, AR, to assess morphological characteristics of ryegrass accessions from Arkansas and differences among other Lolium spp.: Italian, rigid, poison, and perennial ryegrass. Plant height, plant growth habit, plant stem color, and node color were recorded every 2 wk until maturity. The number of tillers per plant, spikes per plant, and seeds per plant were recorded at maturity. All ryegrass accessions from Arkansas were identified as Italian ryegrass, which had erect to prostrate growth habit, green to red stem color, green to red nodes, glume (10 mm) shorter than spikelet (19 mm), and medium seed size (5 to 7 mm) with 1 to 3mm awns. However, significant variability in morphological characteristics was found among Arkansas ryegrass accessions. When Lolium species at the seedling stage (1- to 2-wk-old plants) were compared, poison ryegrass was characterized as having a large main-stem diameter and wide droopy leaves, whereas perennial ryegrass exhibited a short and a very narrow leaf blade. These two can be distinguished from Italian and rigid ryegrass, which have leaf blades wider than perennial ryegrass but narrower than poison ryegrass. Italian and rigid ryegrass are difficult to distinguish at the seedling stage but are distinct at the reproductive stage. At maturity, Italian ryegrass and poison ryegrass seeds are awned, but perennial and rigid ryegrass seeds are awnless. Poison ryegrass awns were at least 4-fold longer than Italian ryegrass awns. Perennial ryegrass flowered 3 wk later than the other species. Poison ryegrass glumes were longer than the spikelets, whereas Italian ryegrass glumes were shorter than the spikelets. Morphological traits indicate that some Italian ryegrass populations are potentially more competitive and more fecund than others.
Nomenclature: Italian ryegrass, Lolium perenne L. ssp. multiflorum (Lam.) Husnot.; perennial ryegrass, Lolium perenne L.; poison ryegrass Lolium temulentum L.; rigid ryegrass, Lolium rigidum Gaudin; wheat, Triticum aestivum L.