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Canada Wildrye

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Canada Wildrye

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Botanical Name: Elymus canadensis


Canada Wildrye is a native perennial bunchgrass that grows to 4 feet with erect or arching culms and flat, wide (up to 0.8 inches), waxy green, pointed leaves that grow from the base of the stem to the spike. Auricles are claw-like and clasping, arising from a broad, yellowish or light green collar. The thick and bristly spikelets can reach 10 inches in length, and are often 2 or 3 to a node. There are approximately 115,000 seeds per pound.

Adaptation and Distribution

Canada Wildrye is a short-lived, cool-season grass found on sandy shores and dunes; wooded areas, especially along trails, rivers and streams; and other disturbed sites throughout much of the 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. It is moderately drought tolerant and winter hardy. It has good tolerance to salinity and tolerates shade very well.


Canada Wildrye is typically seeded in a mix with warm season and/or other cool season grasses. Native forbs can also be included to enhance the restoration benefits. Planting may be completed in the spring or late fall, or early fall if moisture conditions are satisfactory. The seedbed should be firm and weed problems eliminated prior to planting. Seeding rates will vary between 0.5 and 4.0 lbs./acre depending on the mix and site conditions. If planted alone, solid seed at 10 lbs./acre (for conservation use), or 5 lbs. acre in rows (for seed production).


For good quality, nutritious hay Canada Wildrye 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.

Canada wildrye generally decreases in response to grazing.

Because its crown has coarse stems and leaves, Canada wildrye is somewhat resistant to fire mortality. However, susceptibility increases when burns are conducted after the initiation of spring growth.

USDA/NRCS Plant Fact Sheet