Canada wild rye is a native grass that was part of the tallgrass prairie. It is a cool season, clumping grass, best used in areas where naturalizing is desirable as it has a tendency to self seed.
"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Large plant (more than 24 inches)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest:
- Early winter,
- Mid winter,
- Late winter,
- Early summer,
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall,
- Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size and Form
Canada wild rye normally grows 2 to 3 feet tall, but may reach 5 feet tall if moisture is adequate. Form is upright to upright-arching.
This grass will readily self-seed and fill in quickly, making it more appropriate for prairie plantings than for home flower beds.
Full sun is best. Tolerant of both moist and dry soils, but best growth occurs when moisture is adequate.
This is a cool season grass, so its most active growth occurs in spring and fall. Unlike many other cool season grasses, It will go dormant in winter, but can still act as winter interest.
It should not be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins. At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.
Disease, pests, and problems
No serious pest problems.
This can be a short lived perennial. It is often used as a nurse crop in prairie establishment as it will grow and fill in quickly, but later die out and allow slower growing grasses to become dominant.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to most of North America. Found in a variety of habitats.
Alternate leaves are about 1/2 inch wide and 12 inches long, with a rough surface. The underside of the leaf may have a bluish tinge. Foliage turns tan in winter
Flowering occurs in mid-summer. Tiny flowers are held in arched, drooping spikes. Spikes feature long awns (bristles). Flowers are bluish-green.
The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) are held in the arched drooping spikes. As the fruit mature, the awns (bristles) spread out and become more curved. Fruit is tan in fall and winter.