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

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Bryan Kelly-McArthur     (Photo ID #81258)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Leymus cinereus
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

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


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)
679 215 1885
Slope Gradient (%)
12 0 78

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

138 20 356
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
4 0 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# 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)

Habitat and 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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


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