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

Leymus cinereus (Scribn. & Merr.) Á. Löve
giant wildrye (basin wildrye)
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #81258)

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Distribution of Leymus cinereus
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Species Information

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Perennial, coarsely tufted grass from short, smooth to strongly short-hairy rhizomes forming large clumps up to 1 m wide; stems solitary or in groups, usually finely short-hairy or smooth, especially near the nodes, 70-220 cm tall.
Sheaths open; blades tough, rough to sometimes finely hairy, mostly flat, (5) 8-20 mm wide; ear-shaped lobes usually well-developed at some leaf-bases; ligules usually short-hairy, membranous, (2) 3-7 mm long.
Inflorescence a stiff, erect spike, (9) 12-20 (25) cm long, sometimes compound, the lateral branches with as many as 5 or 6 spikelet-bearing nodes; spikelets sometimes paired, but usually 3 or more per node, (3-) 4- to 6-flowered, often 1 or more stalked; glumes narrow, awl-like, tapered from the base, 10-20 mm long, often as long as the spikelets; lemmas smooth to inconspicuously hairy, about 10-15 mm long, unawned or more usually awn-tipped, the awns 2-7 mm long; anthers 3-6 mm long.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Early Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Spring to Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry, usually gravelly or sandy sites, ravines, streambanks and roadsides in the steppe and montane zones; frequent in SC BC, infrequent in SE BC; E to SK and S to MN, NM, AZ and CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Leymus cinereus

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) 215 679 1885
Slope Gradient (%) 0 12 78
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
20 138 356
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: BG(31), BWBS(1), ESSF(2), ICH(2), IDF(8), MS(1), PP(8), SBS(2)


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 not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Aneurolepidium piperi (Bowden) Baum
Elymus cinereus Scribn. & Merr.
Elymus cinereus var. cinereus
Elymus cinereus var. pubens (Piper) C.L. Hitchc.
Elymus condensatus var. pubens Piper
Elymus piperi Bowden

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References