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

Elymus canadensis L.
Canada wildrye
Poaceae (Grass family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #26332)

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Distribution of Elymus canadensis
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Species Information

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Perennial, loosely tufted grass from fibrous roots, rarely from short rhizomes; stems 60-150 cm tall, sometimes decumbent at the base.
Sheaths smooth to rough or fine-hairy, often reddish-brown; blades 4-15 mm wide, flat to somewhat in-rolled, smooth to rough, rarely hairy, ear-shaped lobes at the leaf-bases 1.5-4 mm long, brown or purplish-black; ligules membranous, up to 1 (2) mm long.
Inflorescence a spike 6-30 cm long, 3-7 cm wide, usually nodding, with 1 to 3 (5) spikelets per node; spikelets 12-20 mm long, with 3 to 6 florets; glumes 6-13 mm long, awned, the awns 6-25 mm long, the awns straight or curving; lemmas 8-15 mm long, smooth or hairy throughout, awned, the awns (10) 15-40 (50) mm long, strongly curving outward; anthers 2-3.5 mm long.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

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

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry sandy riverbars and sandy or gravelly meadows in the steppe and montane zones; infrequent in SC and SE BC; N to S AK and NT, E to NB and NS and S to ME, MA, PA, SC, TN, AR, TX, NM, AZ and CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Elymus canadensis

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) 365 1552 2130
Slope Gradient (%) 0 28 93
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
40 155 340
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
1 2 6
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(1), BAFA(2), BG(3), BWBS(1), ESSF(26), ICH(5), IDF(1), MS(2), PP(1), SBS(1), SWB(1)


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 subalpine boreal & cool mesothermal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Elymus brachystachys Scribn. & C.R. Ball
Elymus canadensis var. brachystachys (Scribn. & C.R. Ball) Farw.
Elymus canadensis var. hirsutus (Farw.) Dorn
Elymus canadensis var. interruptus (Buckley) Church
Elymus canadensis var. robustus (Scribn. & J.G. Sm.) Mack. & Bush
Elymus crescendus L.C. Wheeler
Elymus philadelphicus L.
Elymus philadelphicus var. hirsutus Farw.
Elymus robustus Scribn. & J.G. Sm.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References