FACT SHEET: Blue Wildrye

Common Name
: Blue Wildrye
Scientific Name: Elymus glaucus
Family: Grass Family (Poaceae)
Distribution: common and widely distributed throughout western North America
Habitat: mountain brush and mountain forest communities
Habit: perennial bunchgrass
Height: 2-4'
Spread: 1-2'
Foliage Color: pale, waxy green
Leaves: grass leaves, mainly at the base of the plant
Flower Color
: green, turning straw-colored
Flower Form: spikelets in pairs along an elongate terminal stalk, each with one seed-containing floret with a long awn that sticks straight up rather than out

Cultural Requirements: Prefers partial to complete shade and and relatively rich soils. Fully cold-hardy. Drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front), but tolerant of overwatering. Probably not very long-lived.

Readily grown from seed. May be direct-seeded in late fall. Seeds are nondormant. Grows rapidly, and may flower the first year from container plants.

Uses and Notes of Interest: Blue wildrye, a slender and graceful bunchgrass, is one of the less well-known of our native grasses. It commonly grows in the shade of Gambel oak canopies in the mountain brush zone, and also under the aspens and conifers in the mountains. It is a principal revegetation species in the Pacific Northwest, known for its ability to colonize disturbed forest sites, and could probably be used more in our area. It is relatively intolerant of grazing, however. Blue wildrye produces an abundance of high quality seed, which can be stripped from the stalks any time after midsummer. The seeds persist on the stalks for a long time, making timing of seed collection less critical.