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Canada Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis)

Canada Wild Rye

Elymus Canadensis L.

(Order Cyperales, Family Poaceae)

Canada Wild Rye (Minden Dice, 2012)













Canada Wild Rye (Minden Dice, 2012)


Culms: Erect, slender to stout, hollow, glabrous, green or blue-green

Blades: Flat or rolled inward, 4 to 16 inches long, ¼ to ½ inch wide, slightly narrowed toward bases, midrib prominent beneath, rough, bristly or hairy above; margins fine toothed; tips tapered to fine points

Sheaths: Mostly longer than internodes, rounded, usuaslly glabrous; auricles prominent, finger-like and clasping

Liglues: Short, membranous, entire or notched

Inflorescences: Spikes, dense, erect or nodding, 3 to 12 inches long, occasionally interrupted below, terminal

Spikelets: 1 to 4 per node, overlapping, slightly spreading, sessile, 2 to 7 flowered; glumes equal, shorter than first lemma; lemma awns ½ to 1.5 inches long; outward curving at maturity

Habitat: Moist or dry open prairies, stream banks, ditches, and disturbed areas, more abundant on sandy or rocky soils

Distribution: Throughout Kansas

Toxicity: Ergot can infest the inflorescence and is potentially dangerous to livestock

Forage Value: Very palatable and nutritious and readily grazed by livestock; forage value decreases with age

Canada Wild Rye (Minden Dice, 2012)

Canada Wild Rye (Minden Dice, 2012)


Restoration: Often an early successional component of prairie mixtures

Livestock: Provides good forage quality during the early grazing season, but is often considered an inferior forage after it matures; rated good in energy value but poor in protein value

Wildlife: Fair to good palatability as food for wildlife; provides nesting, brood, winter, and escape cover

Erosion Control: Excellent species for erosion control due to seedling vigor and rapid establishment; often used in seedling mixtures where quick development and stabilization is needed

Canada Wild Rye (Minden Dice, 2012)

Canada Wild Rye (Minden Dice, 2012)

Adaptation and Distribution

Canada Wild Rye is a short-lived, cool-season grass found on sandy shores and dunes, wooded ares, rivers and streams, and other disturbed sites throughout North America.  Seedlings are vigorous and establish quickly, but are not highly competitive with other grasses. Growth begins later in the spring and lasts longer into the summer than growth of smooth brome. Canada Wild Rye is mildly tolerant of drought and is winter hardy.

Canada Wild Rye is distributed throughout the northeast, north, and western United States.

BONAP Elymus canadensis

Establishment and Management

Canada Wild Rye is typically seeded with a mix of warm or cool season grasses. To enhance restoration benefits, native forbs can be included. Planting may be completed in spring or late fall. For good quality hay, Canada Wild Rye should be cut just as the heads are emerging from the boot. When used for pasture, grazing should be delayed until there is at least 5 inches of growth.

Pests and Potential Problems

Canada Wild Rye is susceptible to leaf and stem rust, and to ergot.

Conservation Status

Secure; not threatened, endangered, or extinct.


USDA Plants profile:


Bush, Tony. "Canada Wild Rye: Plant Fact Sheet." USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 01 Feb 2002. Web. 13 Jul 2012. <>.

 "Canada Wild Rye." Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses. K-State Libraries, 25 Aug 2007. Web. 13 Jul 2012. <>.

"Elymus canadensis Plants Profile." USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. USDA, 01 Feb 2012. Web. 13 Jul 2012.

BONAP North America Plant Atlas. 2011. Photograph. Floristic Synthesis of NAWeb. 13 Jul 2012.

Submitted By: Minden Dice, July 2012

Wichita State University
Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
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