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

 Native Plant Database

Pascopyrum smithii

Western wheatgrass

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Pascopyrum smithii (Western wheatgrass)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Western Wheatgrass is a 15-30 in., cool-season, sod-forming, perennial grass. Its dense, narrow, 3-6 in. spikes occur at the top of stout culms. The entire plant is often covered with a white coating, lending a silvery caste to its blue-green leaves. The leaves are less than a quarter inch wide and, when dry, roll up longitudinally to display prominent ridges on the tops.

This densely colonizing turf grass is commonly found in western North America in low-lying areas subject to seasonal poor drainage. During wet times, this grass becomes aggressive and can crowd out neighboring grasses and forbs. For this reason, and for its silvery blue-green leaves, Western Wheatgrass is favored for erosion control. It covers so thickly, however, that it is not the best choice for a wildflower meadow. It wont allow many other plants room.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Inflorescence: Spike
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Leaf: Gray-green, blue-green, or silvery green
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun


USA: AK , AZ , AR , CA , CO , GA , ID , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , MA , MI , MN , MO , MT , NE , NV , NH , NM , NY , ND , OH , OK , OR , SD , TN , TX , UT , WA , WI , WY
Canada: AB , SK
Native Distribution: Ont. to B.C., s. to KY, TX, AZ & e. of the Cascades to n.e. CA
Native Habitat: Hillsides; bottomlands; canyons; open woods; prairies; scrubland. Often in swales and ditches with seasonal poor drainage.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist, alkaline clay, loam, sand.
Conditions Comments: Thrives in seasonal poor drainage and high-rainfall years, when it can become aggressive enough to crowd out many other grasses and forbs.


Use Ornamental: A blue-green turf grass that can be mowed
Use Other: Widely used for erosion control
Attracts: Birds

Last Update: 2009-03-21