Elymus virginicus

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: Virginia wild rye 
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Native Range: North America
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to October
Bloom Description: Greenish
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion


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

Noteworthy Characteristics

Elymus virginicus, commonly called Virginia wild rye, is a cool season perennial bunch grass which typically grows in a clump to 2-4’ tall. It is native to a variety of habitats including bottomland forests, upland prairies, glades, stream banks, pastures, fields, roadsides, and disturbed areas (see Steyermark) across southern Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia and in the eastern and central U.S. from Maine to Florida west to North Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas and Arizona. It is commonly found throughout the State of Missouri.

Flat, linear, pointed leaf blades (to 3/8” wide) appear in tufts rising to 12” tall. Non-showy greenish flowers bloom in June on stiff, terminal, arching, bristly, wheat/rye-like flower spikes (to 6” long) located atop flowering stems (culms) rising above the foliage to 4’ 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.

Genus name comes from the Greek word elymos used for a type of grain.

Specific epithet means of Virginia.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Best naturalized in prairie, wild or native plant areas. Erosion control for hillsides, slopes and streambanks. Foliage and flower/seed spikes lend interest to borders, but self-seeding tendencies in borders is a concern. Rain Gardens.