British Wildlife Wiki

Lolium temulentum, typically known as darnel, poison darnel or cockle, is an annual plant that forms part of the Poaceae family and part of the Lolium genus. The plant stem can grow up to one meter tall, with inflorescence in the ears and purple grain. It has a global distribution.


Darnel usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so extensive that in some regions, cockle is referred to as "false wheat". It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The ears on the real wheat are so heavy it makes the entire plant droop downward, but L. temulentum, whose ears are light, stands up straight. The wheat will also appear brown when ripe, whereas the darnel is black. When the Lolium matures, the spikelets turn edgeways to the rachis, where the wheat spikelets remain as they grew previously.

The darnel can be infected by an endophytic fungus of the genus Neotyphodium, and the endophyte-produced, insecticidal loline alkaloids were first isolated from this plant. It parasitizes wheat fields. The French word for darnel is ivraie (from Latin ebriacus, intoxicated), which expresses that weed's characteristic of making one feel poisoned with drunkenness, and can cause death. This characteristic is also alluded to in the scientific name (Latin temulentus = drunk).