88 herbarium specimens of the genus Lolium were scored for 22 characters, comprising 7 vegetative, 8 inflorescence and 7 seed characters. The aim was to review the species relationship and to produce a lateral key to the genus. The data were analysed using principal components analysis, discriminant function analysis and cluster analysis. All analyses separated L. perenne, L. multiflorum and L. temulentum from each other. The 2 varieties of L. rigidum showed varying degrees of separation from each other and from L. multiflorum. Their distinction as a species and as 2 varieties is discussed. L. perenne and L. rigidum were shown to contain the greatest similarity between species and L. temulentum was found to be the most distinct. A lateral key is proposed that separates the species on the basis of 11 morphological characters that are easily scored in the field.