Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Elymus canadensis

Canada wild rye, Canadian wildrye, Prairie wildrye, Nodding wildrye

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wild rye)
Lytle, Melody
The erect or arching stems of this cool-seaon, short-lived perennial grow 2-4 ft. tall. Terminal, spike-shaped seedheads of oat-like seeds with long, bristly awns, cause the stems to bend and droop.

Canada wild rye establishes easily, providing quick initial cover. It is a versatile, cool-season plant, requiring little to no maintenance. It displays heavy, whiskery, nodding seed heads in early fall.

Image Gallery:

20 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Inflorescence: Spike
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: 2 to 6 feet tall
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Green to tan
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun


USA: AZ , AR , CA , CO , CT , DE , ID , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MO , MT , NE , NV , NH , NJ , NM , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SD , TN , TX , UT , VT , VA , WA , WV , WI , WY , DC
Canada: AB , MB , NB , NS , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: Que. to B.C., s. to NC, TX, AZ & e. of the Cascades to n. CA, south to Durango and Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico. Absent from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Most common in the northern reaches of its range and at high altitudes.
Native Habitat: Grasslands, ravines, depressions, verges, open woodlands, ditches, fencerows

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist, well-drained, porous, acid or calcareous sand, loam, clay, or limestone
Conditions Comments: Prefers a moist soil. Can take half a day of shade. More drought-tolerant than Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii); less drought-tolerant than Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha). Requires more sun than Virginia Wildrye (Elymus virginicus).


Use Ornamental: A good bunchgrass for partly shady prairie plantings.
Use Wildlife: Nesting material, Seeds-granivorous birds, Seeds-Small mammals. Fair forage.
Use Food: Seed consumed by Gosiute Indians.
Use Other: Very palatable and nutritious, readily consumed by livestock, providing good early spring cattle grazing. Cut seed stalks used in dried arrangements.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: For Zabulon skipper butterfly
Deer Resistant: High

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Elymus canadensis is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Zabulon Skipper
(Poanes zabulon)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2012-12-07