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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Northern Wildrye - Elymus innovatus
Other Names:  Leymus innovatus

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2
(see State Rank Reason below)
State Threat Score: No Known Threats

Agency Status
USFS: Species of Conservation Concern in Forests (HLC)


External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Rare in Montana, where it is currently known from a few scattered sites east of the Divide. Additional population data are needed for the species witin Montana. Population trends are unknown and two occurrences are only known from historical collections.
General Description
Northern Wild-rye is a perennial grass that forms small clumps of stems that are 4-8 dm high and which arise from creeping rhizomes. The stiff leaves are 2-4 mm wide and have inrolled margins; they are glabrous on top but minutely roughened on the bottoms. The membranous crest on the leaf where it meets the stem, or ligule, is ca. 1 mm high and has hairs on the upper margin. Spikelets are arranged opposite each other at each node in a narrow spike that is 4-9 cm long and located at the top of the stem. Spikelets are often purplish and have a pair of narrow, awn-tipped glumes at their base. They have 3-5 flowers, each of which has an awned, hairy lemma that is 5-12 mm long and a smaller palea.

Fruiting in June and July.

Diagnostic Characteristics
E. GLAUCUS lacks rhizomes, and the leaf blades are 5-10 mm wide and the lemmas are smooth.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
AK to B.C., east to Alta. and south to MT, WY, and SD. Peripheral.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 17

(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)

Moist meadows, forest margins and openings along rivers and streams in the valley and lower montane zones.
Predicted Suitable Habitat Model

This species has a Predicted Suitable Habitat Model available.

To learn how these Models were created see

Threats or Limiting Factors
Threat impact not assigned because threats are not known (MTNHP Threat Assessment 2021).

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Northern Wildrye — Elymus innovatus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from