Elymus virginicus

virginia wild-rye, virginia wildrye, virginia wild rye


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Attachment


Leaf Type

cauline, simple

Leaf Shape


Growth Form


Flower Color


Flower Month

March - October

Height (meters)

0.4 - 1.5

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Cool season

Wetland Class


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Distinguished from E. canadensis in being shorter, with seed heads that remain straight and upright at maturity, and with much shorter awns. It is, however, highly variable and may intergrade with E. canadensis (Correll and Johnson 1979). A good identification character of E. virginicus is the hardened rounded, usually bowed-out base of the glumes, as no other species of Elymus has this feature (Grelen and Hughes 1984). Spike partially enclosed by subtending leaf, leaf rough.

Cultural Information

Seed is available commercially. It is grown in pure stands and harvested by combine. Commercial seed averages 70 percent purity, 84 percent germination, and should be planted at a rate of 10-15 lbs/acre (USDA 1948). Seed germination is reported to improve with cold/moist stratification (Steffen 1997).

Animal Use

Preferred forage for cattle but becomes tough with age and is susceptible to ergot. Also has low grazing resistance.

Natural History

A cool-season, perennial bunchgrass which reproduces by seed and tillers. It may be found from the Rocky Mountains eastward in prairies and wooded areas. It will grow in more dense shade, prefers heavier and more fertile soils, and requires more moisture than Canada wildrye. It is nutritious and palatable to all classes of livestock. It provides good forage and hay, but mature plants are tough and seed heads are often infested with ergot (see record for ergot). It is a decreaser under overstocked conditions. Virginia wild-rye is mostly self-fertilized (USDA 1948). It has been considered for planning in restorations, or in areas having low quantity of fuel species, to allow fire to successfully burn those areas. It is found frequently throughout the eastern United States. In Louisiana it is found frequently in disturbed areas and edges of forests throughout the state. It cannot tolerate fire and decreases under a management plan including prescribed burning.


Low woods, ditches, bottomlands, streambanks, low prairies, edges of woods, and waste places.