E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Elymus glaucus Buckley
blue wildrye
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Adolf Ceska  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #13411)

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Distribution of Elymus glaucus
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Species Information

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Perennial, bluish, tufted grass from fibrous roots or short rhizomes; stems 30-180 cm tall, erect or slightly decumbent at the base, the nodes exposed and often covered with dense short hairs.
Sheaths smooth to rough, white-hairy close to the base, often purplish at the stem-base; blades 4-13 mm wide, lax, flat or slightly in-rolled, bluish-green, rough on the nerves, sometimes hairy, ear-shaped lobes at the leaf-bases up to 2.5 mm long, often purple; ligules up to 1 mm long, entire or ragged.
Inflorescence a spike 5-21 cm long, 0.5-2 cm wide, erect to slightly nodding, rarely pendent, (1) 2 to 3 spikelets per node; spikelets 8-25 mm long, purplish, with bases often overlapping, with 2 to 4 (6) fertile florets; glumes 9-14 mm long, unawned or awned, the awns 1-5 mm long; lemmas 9-14 mm long, smooth to short-hairy at least on the nerves, the awns 1-25 mm long, straight to slightly curved; anthers 1.5-3.5 mm long.
Two subspecies occur in BC:

1. Lemmas awnless or awned, the awns less than 5 mm long................... ssp. virescens (Piper) Gould

1. Lemmas awned, the awns greater than 5 mm long.................... ssp. glaucus

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Early Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry slopes, meadows and open forests in the lowland and montane to subalpine zones; ssp. glaucus - common in S BC, less frequent north of 55 degrees N; ssp. virescens - infrequent in coastal BC, rare E of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; ssp. glaucus - N to SE AK and YT, E to ON and S to NY, IL, AR, TX, NM, AZ and CA; ssp. virescens - S to CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Elymus glaucus

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 975 2450
Slope Gradient (%) 0 17 230
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 174 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(12), BAFA(2), BG(14), BWBS(132), CDF(75), CWH(234), ESSF(536), ICH(472), IDF(568), IMA(4), MH(3), MS(327), PP(52), SBPS(50), SBS(667), SWB(12)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to montane, Western North American grass distributed in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions (introduced to Eastem and Central North America). Occurs in cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates on moderately dry to fresh, nitrogen-rich soils. Sporadic on water­shedding sites, more frequent in broad-leaved forests on water-receiving (floodplain and stream-edge) sites. Its occurrence decreases with increasing precipitation and elevation. Characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool temperate & cool mesothermal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Elymus glaucus var. jepsonii Burtt Davy
Elymus glaucus var. tenuis Vasey

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References