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Montana Field Guides

Beardless Wildrye - Elymus triticoides
Other Names:  Leymus triticoides

Native Species

Global Rank: G4G5
State Rank: SU
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 3

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
In Montana four populations have been observed and documented between 1949 and 2014. The specimen collected in 2014 is awaiting veritification.
General Description
Plants: Cool season perennial with long, slender rhizomes (seldom short), forming large, loose clumps (Lavin in Lesica 2012), glaucous or sometimes green. Stems 30–70 (120) cm in length (Cronquist et al. 1977), usually exceeding the spikes, 1.8–3 mm in diameter, (FNA 2007), with smooth to stiffly-haired or densely puberulent sheaths (Hitchcock et al. 1969).

Leaves: Blades stiff, flat to slightly inrolled, somewhat rough above, approx. 3-8 mm (-10 in cultivation) wide (Lavin in Lesica 2012), 10-35 cm in length, veins 11-27, subequal and tightly spaced (FNA 2007). Ligules erose to ciliolate (Cronquist et al. 1977), 0.2-1.3 mm in length. Auricles up to 1 mm in length (FNA 2007), often clasping the stem (Cronquist et al. 1977).

Inflorescence: Spike erect, open to dense, slender, occasionally compound (Cronquist et al. 1977), (5 )7 – 20 cm in length (Hitchcock et al. 1969). Internodes mostly glabrous and fringed with fine hairs, lower ones 5-11.5 mm long (FNA 2007).

(Lavin's contribution adapted from Lavin in Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Flowers late May to August (Cronquist et al. 1977).

Diagnostic Characteristics
On the surface, Elymus triticoides appears similar to Agropyron smithii. The former, however, usually has 2 spikelets per node and narrow, linear glumes. Also, the florets are out of alignment with the glumes by about 90 degrees due to the distorted rachis (a feature that traditionally separates Elymus from Agropyron) (Lavin in Lesica 2012).

(Lavin's contribution adapted from Lavin in Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Species Range

Range Comments
Canada: s BC; US: Western half, from MT south to NM, reaching into TX, and west to the coastal states (Cronquist et al. 1977; FNA 2007; Lavin in Lesica 2012).

(Lavin's contribution adapted from Lavin in Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 53

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Dry to moist disturbed or overgrazed mountain meadows (sometimes saline), river bottoms, sand dunes (Hitchcock et al. 1969; Lavin in Lesica 2012).

(Lavin's contribution adapted from Lavin in Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Reproductive Characteristics
Spikelets: 10-18 mm long, mostly 2 per node (Lavin in Lesica 2012) but sometimes 1 or 3 (FNA 2007), sessile (occasionally one is pedicillate) (Hitchcock et al. 1969). Glumes 5-16 mm in length (FNA 2007), subequal, slender, firm, 1- to 3-nerved (Cronquist et al. 1977), often tapering to an awn tip or short awn of <3 mm. Lemmas 3 - 8 per spikelet (Lavin in Lesica 2012), mostly weakly 5- to 7-nerved, usually glabrous (sometimes scabrous or puberulent), with or without a short awn (Cronquist et al. 1977). Paleas almost equal to lemmas in length. Anthers purplish, about (3) 4 -5 mm long (Hitchcock et al. 1969).

Requires cross pollination to set seed (Cronquist et al. 1977).

(Lavin's contribution adapted from Lavin in Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Beardless Wildrye may be grown from rhizome plugs or seed. Establishing seeded stands of Beardless Wildrye is challenging with its high seed dormancy levels (Knapp and Wiesner 1978). Fall planting with overwintering of the dormant seeds aids in breaking seed dormancy in northern latitudes. Keeping competition from weeds low is important for establishing seedlings. Stands live for many years once established (Young-Mathews and Winslow 2010). Local Natural Resources Conservation Service offices can provide more information about growing Beardless Wildrye.

Beardless Wildrye’s strong and extensive creeping rhizomes and tolerance to lengthy flooding make it valuable in stabilizing stream bottoms and banks (USDA-NRCS 1991). Wet meadows dominated by Beardless Wildrye afford habitat to nesting and foraging birds (Kilbride et al. 1997). Various rodents make use of habitat that dry meadows with an abundance of this species offer (McAdoo et al. 2006). It provides fair forage for livestock, particularly in early spring while it is still tender (Cronquist et al. 1977). Other uses of Beardless Wildrye include grinding seeds to prepare flour for baking and cooking, and fashioning leaves into baskets, ropes, and other fibrous products (Moerman 1998).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Cronquist, A., A. H. Holmgren, N. H. Holmgren, J. L. Reveal, and P. K. Holmgren. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Volume 6: The Monocotyledons. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. 584 pp.
    • Hitchcock, C. L., A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J. W. Thompson. 1969. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part I: Vascular Cryptogams, Gymnosperms and Monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 pp.
    • Kilbride, K.M., F.L. Paveglio, D.A. Pyke, M.S. Laws, and J.H. David. 1997. Use of integrated pest management to restore meadows infested with perennial pepperweed at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. USDA Agricultural Experiment Station, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. Special Report 972:31-35.
    • Knapp, A.D., and L.E. Wiesner. 1978. Seed dormancy of beardless wildrye (Elymus triticoides Buckl.). Journal of Seed Technology 3(1):1-9.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • McAdoo, J.K., M.R. Barrington, and M.A. Ports. 2006. Habitat affinities of rodents in northeastern Nevada rangeland communities. Western North American Naturalist 66:321-331.
    • Moerman, D.E. 1998. Native American ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc. 927 p.
    • USDA-NRCS. 1991. Conservation Plant Release Brochure for ‘Rio’ Beardless wild rye (Leymus triticoides Buckley). USDA-NRCS Ecological Sciences Division, Washington, D.C. and California Agricultural Experiment Station, UC Davis.
    • Young-Mathews, A. and S.R. Winslow. 2010. USDA-NRCS: Plant guide for beardless wildrye (Leymus triticoides). Lockeford, CA: USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Plant Materials Center.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Quire, R.L. 2013. The sagebrush steppe of Montana and southeastern Idaho shows evidence of high native plant diversity, stability, and resistance to the detrimental effects of nonnative plant species. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 124 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Beardless Wildrye — Elymus triticoides.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from