Virginia Wild Rye, Elymus virginicus

Virginia Wild Rye

Elymus virginicus

Sun Shade:
Bloom Time: Summer
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil Conditions: Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil Moisture: Medium, Moist, Wet
Color: Straw
Fragrance: No
Height: 4 - 5 feet
Spacing: 1 foot


Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus) is a graceful, short-lived perennial similar to Canada Wild Rye, but with a smaller, less showy seed head. It actively grows during the spring and fall when soil temperatures are cool. Common companions to this cool season grass are warm season grasses like Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, and Switch Grass. As shown in the above photo, Virginia Wild Rye turns attractive shades of tan and crimson in the fall.

As a fast-growing grass, Virginia Wild Rye is a good choice for erosion control and stream bank stabilization. It prefers rich, moist areas in clearings or along the forest edge, but can also grow in drier, sunny conditions as well. Its tolerance to shade makes it a good pioneer species for woodland restorations, especially when planted along with Bottlebrush Grass. This species readily reseeds. For these reasons it can also be used as a native Cover Crop. Use 1-5 lbs per acre when seeding with your native seed mix.

Flat, linear, pointed leaf blades appear in tufts rising to 12 inches tall. Non-showy greenish flowers bloom in June on stiff, terminal, arching, bristly, wheat/rye-like flower spikes located atop flowering stems rising above the foliage to 4 feet tall. After bloom, the mature flowering spikes with developing seeds continue to provide ornamental interest as they gracefully nod and sway in the wind throughout summer and early autumn. Foliage and seed spikes turn tan in fall.

Best grown in moist, relatively fertile, well-drained loams in full sun to part shade. Perhaps best in light shade. This grass is considered to be a superb plant for erosion control (e.g., stabilizing wooded hillsides and streambanks).

Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  Tolerates a wide variety of soils.
  Easily grown by seed.
  Reproduces by tilling and seed.
Further Information

 Wisconsin Fruit Trees
 Wisconsin Edible Berry Shrubs
 Widsconsin Edible Plants-Eat On The Wild Side
 8 Dandelion Recipes
 Wisconsin Native Plant Nurseries