Characterization of grass fibre is important in assessing its potential for industrial fibre applications. Stem and leaf sections were sampled from triplicate field plots of two grass species, perennial ryegrass (PRG) and tall fescue at three dates (monthly from 12 May) in the primary growth, and were used to (a) isolate individual fibre cells and (b) prepare transverse sections. Microscopy and image analysis software were used to determine the length and width of individual fibre cells and the proportion of lignified fibre in stem and leaf transverse sections. The length and width of individual fibre cells were greater (P < 0·001) in stem than in leaf sections, while individual fibre cell length was greater (P < 0·01) for tall fescue than PRG. Harvest date and grass species had little effect (P > 0·05) on the proportion of lignified fibre in the transverse-sectional area. However, there was a greater (P < 0·001) proportion of lignified fibre in the transverse-sectional area of grass stems than leaves, with tall fescue having a greater (P < 0·05) stem and leaf transverse-sectional area and area of lignified fibre in transverse section than PRG. Tall fescue harvested at a later stage of growth, with higher proportions of stem than leaf tissue, may be more suitable for industrial fibre applications.