Wild oats have a large ligule with no auricles and the leaves tend to be hairy with a slight bluish hue. The emerging leaf is rolled. The seedling leaves are twisted anticlockwise, the opposite direction to wheat and barley. Wild oat seeds are usually dark but can vary through to cream. Hairiness of seeds also varies.

Wild oats tend to grow in discrete patches at low to moderate densities and can be confused with brome grass in the seedling stage. All Bromusspp. have tubular leaf sheaths and hairy leaves and sheaths while wild oats exhibit a rolled sheath and few hairs on the leaves.