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A system for identifying and quantifying the stages of growth and development of perennial forage grasses was developed. The system consists of a universal set of morphological descriptors for forage and range grasses and a continuous numerical index. The life cycle of individual grass tillers is divided into five primary growth stages (i) germination, (ii) vegetative, (iii) elongation, (iv) reproductive, and (v) seed ripening. Substages corresponding to specific morphological events are defined within each primary stage. Each growth stage consists of a primary and secondary stage and has both a mnemonic code and numerical index associated with it. The codes were designed to be easily memorized and are useful for applying the system in the field. The numerical index is included so that the stages can be expressed quantitatively.