Canada Wildrye

Elymus canadensis



Special Note: Frank Gould in The Grasses of Texas states E. canadensis hybridizes with E. virginicus and other Elymus species.  This table should help distinguish the two species where minimal hybridization has occurred: 
CHARACTERISTIC  Elymus canadensis  Elymus virginicus 
Seedhead  Nodding seedhead, especially by maturity  Stiffly erect seedhead 
Glumes  Sharp “V” shaped  Bowed out “U” shaped 
Awns  Long and divergent  Straight and short 
Decumbent at the base and growing in small clumps, the stems of Canada Wildrye can reach up to 5 ft or 150 cm. Leaf blades of this bunchgrass are wide, up to 20 mm, and are held to the stem by auricles. The blades can reach 18 inches or 45 cm and are flat, rough on the upper surface, and with a prominent midrib below.  The spiked seed head resembles wheat or barley and droops or nods when mature. Its length measures about 20 cm. Spikelets are in groups of three or four and are slightly spreading. Glumes are narrow and straight at the base but form a sharp “V” shape as opposed to the “U” shape of E. virginicusAwns are more than twice as long as the lemma, going to 4 cmThese lemma awns are outwardly curving at maturity.   Canada Wildrye is a perennial, cool-season, native. It can bloom as early as March with seed production from May through December.  It provides good grazing for livestock but only fair grazing for wildlife. It is especially beneficial in winter when there is not much green forage available.  Its attractive seedheads make it an excellent plant for shady areas. 


Grows in bottomlands, along ravines, in shaded areas, along fence rows, and in other moist sites. Has disappeared from rangeland pastures as the water cycle (infiltration and water-holding capacity of the soil) has changed.