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Canada Wild Rye

( Elymus canadensis )


Canada Wild Rye
Nodding Wild Rye
Elymus canadensis
Elymus canadensis var. brachystachys
Elymus canadensis var. hirsutus
Elymus canadensis var. robustus



Sun, Partial Shade, Shade

Clay, Sand

Dry, Normal, Moist




Habitat Considerations

Taiga Plains, Boreal Shield, Atlantic Maritime, Mixedwood Plains, Boreal Plains, Prairies, Taiga Cordillera, Montane Cordillera

Savannah, Forest Edge, Prairie/Meadow/Field, Riparian, Rocky Bluff

Bird, Prairie/Meadow
Design Considerations

90 cm

150 cm

Jul - Aug







Birds, Other Showy Insects

Conservation Status

Interesting Tidbits

Versatile cool season plant; little to no maintenance. Heavy, whiskery seed heads in early fall. Seed head colour: Golden to mid brown, sometimes purple tinged. (Dodd) Habitat Information: Lives along sandy dunes, shores, wooded trails, streams, other full sun to part shade riparian areas, disturbed sites. Wild rye has been gaining favour as a cover crop for restoration of areas newly seeded with native plants. (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service) As the seeds are establishing, wild rye acts as a weed suppressant, and as it establishes more quickly than other native plants, it provides protection while the new seedlings are taking hold. Wild rye, because it has a short lifespan, will not overwhelm, and recede in later years. (Delaney, Rodger, Woodliffe, Morris & Rhynard, 2000). Rabbit, horses, cattle, and deer eat the plant foliage. The seedheads (particularly the pointed awn) have been known to pierce the mouth parts of the latter animals, as well as cause problems with their digestive tracts. Birds are apparently not interested in the seed. (Illinois Wildflowers) It provides shelter, food and forage for wildlife. (Evergreen) Garden Uses: Wild rye is a great native plant for gardens, as it is of medium height. It is very tough, growing in almost any soil and moisture condition, and requires no maintenance, except that it is often taken over (as above) once other more thickly colonizing plants get established. It grows readily by seed, propagating itself in various areas throughout the years. You can help keep it and other plants going in your garden by finding areas wher you would like to grow, and then collect and sow seed there. (Evergreen) Insect Relationships: Leafhoppers Commellus comma, Dorycephalus platyrhynchus, and Laevicephalus orientalis; also leaf beetle larvae Diabrotica barberi. (Illinois Wildflowers) Traditional Edible, Medicinal Uses: Seed is cooked and ground into a flour for bread. It was an important food for the Paiute Indians of southwestern N. America. A decoction of Canada wild rye was used in Iroquois ceremonies to soak corn. (Moerman, 2009) Agricultural Uses: This plant is considered a good forage for livestock, less so when mature. (Plants for a Future) It is successful at revegetation of mine spoiled soils because of its tolerance of heavy metals. Quickly restores itself after fires. (USDA Forest Service Service (Graminoid) This bunchgrass provides good nesting, brood, winter and escape cover for birds. It is a preferred forage for cattle and other mammals. (USDA Plants)

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