FACT SHEET: Bluebunch Wheatgrass

Common Name
: Bluebunch Wheatgrass
Scientific Name
: Agropyron spicatum
Synonyms: Elymus spicatus, Pseudoroegneria spicata
Family: Grass Family (Poaceae)
Distribution: common and widely distributed in the Intermountain West
Habitat: foothill and middle montane habitats
Habit: perennial bunchgrass
Height: 1-2'
Spread: 1-2'
Foliage Color: green
Leaves: grass leaves, mainly toward the base of the plant
Flower Color
: green turning straw-colored
Flower Form: spikelets borne in rows along an elongate terminal stalk
Flowering Season: early summer

Cultural Requirements: Prefers full sun and rich to well-drained soils. Fully cold-hardy. Drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front), but somewhat tolerant of overwatering.

Readily grown from seed or as container stock. May be direct-seeded in late fall. Seeds are nondormant. Plants require two years to flower.

Uses and Notes of Interest: Bluebunch wheatgrass is the characteristic perennial grass companion to big sagebrush throughout the Intermountain West, and it is a common plant in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. It is fire-tolerant, but cannot survive abusive livestock grazing. In overgrazed areas in many parts of the state, it has been deliberately replaced with Eurasian forage grasses such as crested wheatgrass, tall wheatgrass, and intermediate wheatgrass. These introduced species generally do not coexist with a diversity of native wildflowers as well as bluebunch wheatgrass. The outcurved awns on the tips of bluebunch wheatgrass florets (seed- bearing units) give the plant a graceful, luminous appearance. Occasional individuals may lack these awns. Bluebunch wheatgrass is a prolific seeder. The seeds in their florets are easily collected by hand-stripping into a bag in midsummer.