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Western Wheatgrass - Elymus smithii
Other Names:  Agropyron smithii, Pascopyrum smithii

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 4

External Links






 
General Description
PLANTS: A cool season perennial grass. Plants are rhizomatous, not cespitose (densely tufted). Culms are mostly hairless, typically glaucous, andgrow 35-80 cm tall. Sources: Barkworth in Flora of North America [FNA] 2007; Lesica et al. 2012

LEAVES: Often basally concentrated. Blades are usually stiff, often inrolled, and 2-5 mm wide. Sheaths and collars are usually hairless. Lowest internodes are 2 times as long as the middle internodes. Auricles to 1 mm tall, Ligules about 0.1 mm tall. Top of leaf usually has prominently veins. Sources: Barkworth in FNA 2007; Lesica et al. 2012.

INFLORESCENCE: A spike - erect, continuous with the rachis, and 4-20 cm long. Internodes are less than 10 mm apart. Spikelets usually one per node, but sometimes are two, 10-29 mm long, and with 4-9 florets. Glumes are shorter or as long as floret, rigid, and gradually long-tapering from the base to a narrow sharp tip; tip is acuminate and often curved. Lemmas are awn-tipped or with an awn up to 5 or 10 mm. Sources: Barkworth in FNA 2007; Lesica et al. 2012.

Diagnostic Characteristics
At initial appearance Elymus triticoides appears similar to Agropyron smithii.

Western Wheatgrass - Elymus smithii, native
*Glumes: rigid and gradually tapering to a narrow sharp tip, which is often curved; their midribs usually aligned with the lemma's midrib.
*Spikelets mostly singular at mid-spike; occasionally with paired spikelets.

Beardless Wildrye - Elymus triticoides, native, SOC
*Glumes: Linear to subulate. Tapering from below mid-length into a very narrow pointed tip. Their midribs not aligned with the lemma's midrib; thus, florets are twisted about 90 degrees out of alignment with the glumes, which is a feature that traditionally separates Elymus from Agropyron).
*Spikelets always paired at mid-spike; occasionally with 1 or 3 at bottom or top of spike.

TAXONOMY
The treatment of perennial grasses that belong to the Triticeae Tribe is contentious among botanists.

In the Manual of Montana Vascular Plants (Lesica et al. 2012) Lavin's treatment is more traditional, which focuses heavily on morphology:

Agropyron includes native and cultivated grasses that have spikes, usually 1 spikelet per node, several florets per spikelet, and have relatively broader glumes where the mid-ribs of glumes and lemmas align.

Elymus includes native and cultivated grasses that have spikes, having 2 or more spikelets per node where at least 2 spikelets are fertile, and/or having sharp-pointed glumes that do not align with the florets.

In the Flora of North America (2007) Barkworth's treatment is influenced by various genetic research and the works of Love (1984) and Dewey (1984) and remains partially contentious. Agropyron and Elymus are split into 4 genera:

Agropyron is restricted to members with keeled glumes, are called the English Crested Wheatgrasses, and includes only the species Agropyron cristatum.

Leymus are categorized as alkaline tolerant grasses that are strongly rhizomatous or have short, subulate glumes.

Pascopyrum is categorized as being a North American allooctoploid, which includes only the species Pascopyrum smithii.

Pseudoroegneria species are categorized as being obligate outcrossers and have a genome that is either diploid or autotetraploid and also contains the "St" haplome. The only North American species is Pseudoroegneria spicata.

Species Range
Montana Range

Year-round
 


Range Comments
Throughout much of North America except in the southeast (Lavin in Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 3333

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

Recency

 

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



Habitat

References
  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 2007. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 24. Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae, Part 1. Oxford University Press, Inc., NY. xxxiii + 911 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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Western Wheatgrass — Elymus smithii.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from