Darnel

Darnel_jpgGrasses in this genus Lolium are commonly called Ryegrasses.  Three species of ryegrass are widespread in the United States and are used for human consumption   and are some are cultivated on lawns.  The use of these grasses by wildlife in minimal except where seeds are eaten by upland gamebirds and songbirds.  Small mammals may also eat the seeds. Although 99% of grass seeds are safe to eat, the seeds of Darnel are said to be toxic.  Cyanide, the source of the toxicity, is eliminated by cooking or thoroughly drying the grain.  Thus, there is virtually no chance of poisonings humans who consume this grass seed.  Grazing cattle have sometimes been poisoned by consuming Darnel, but this is rare. The species nametemulentum means “drunken, from narcotic grains” and may refer to the reported toxic effect of  Darnel seeds.

OtherCommonName:

ScientificName:

Lolium temulentum

Community:

Edge

PlantStatus:

Introduced ~ Native to Mediterranean Region

LifeSpan:

Annual

PlantHeight:

3 feet

FruitingTime:

Distribution:

Quebec to Gulf of Mexico ~ Mostly in Cape May county in New Jersey ~ Escaped from cultivated fields

FloweringTime:

May to August

IdentifyingCharacteristics:

Spikelet 8 inches long, 5-7 flowered, awned (slender, bristle like terminal process). Consider the often quoted rhyme when identifying grasses (Poaceae): “Sedges have edges, Rushes are round, Grasses have joints from their tips to the ground.”