Blue Wildrye (Glaucus)

The Blue Wildrye (Glaucus) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer and fall . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Blue Wildrye (Glaucus) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Blue Wildrye (Glaucus) will reach up to 3.3 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Blue Wildrye (Glaucus) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -38°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Blue wildrye is good for streambank restoration, meadow and swale seeding. It is also excellent for reseeding burned or disturbed areas in oak woodland or forest. It is very tolerant of fire, burning quickly with little downward transfer of heat. Blue wildrye can also provide excellent wildlife habitat for mammals, birds, and waterfowl. It provides good forage early in the season, but later, may be too coarse and stemmy.

Ethnobotanic: Blue wildrye has similar uses as creeping wild rye, primarily as a cereal grain.  It is less desirable for basketry as the nodes are thick, but this does not exclude its use in some baskets.  Similar to creeping wildrye, there may be some ceremonial uses of blue wildrye.  

General Characteristics

General: Blue wildrye is a large perennial bunchgrass. It is very tall (up to 5 feet) with an upright growth habit and just a few stems per plant. It is similar in stature and growth habit to slender wheatgrass. The leaf blades are thin and flat, ranging from 4-12mm (.2-.5 inch) wide. Leaf color changes from green to blue green, with a white waxy coating. If it is given water it will stay green all year. Frosts induce dormancy.

Required Growing Conditions

Blue wildrye is found throughout California in the foothills and lower mountain slopes, where it is associated with chaparral, as well as open stands of oak and conifers. At lower elevations, it grows in valley grasslands, open areas, alluvial channel banks and swales. It is often found with other native perennial grasses. It’s adapted to 25-100 cm (10-40 inches) annual rainfall.

Blue wildrye is also found from California to Alaska and also the Great Plains and northern Mexico. Please consult the PLANTS database for current distribution.

Habitat Open areas, chaparral, woodland and forest.

Adaptation Blue wildrye grows well in both disturbed and undisturbed areas and is a good competitor. It tolerates wide variations in soil and weather conditions, though grows best in good soils. It prefers moisture but tolerates drought and is usually more drought-tolerant than meadow barley (Hordeum brachyantherum) and California brome (Bromus carinatus). Some ecotypes are adapted to sunny grassland habitats.

Cultivation and Care

Seeds mature in late spring to summer; can be collected for 2-7 weeks depending on ecotype and growing conditions. Seed is up to 6mm long (1/4 in.), germinates easily, and has good seedling vigor. There are approximately 109,000 seeds/lb., and if planted at a rate of 1 lb./acre, there would be approximately 2.6 seeds/square feet.

General Upkeep and Control

Forage quality can be excellent when cut before dormancy. It will not survive if grazed to heavily. Likewise it is generally tolerant of mowing if not cut too short.

Pests and Potential Problems Rust can be a problem and treating the seed prior to planting with an approved fungicide is recommended.

Seeds and Plant Production Flowering occurs in the late spring typically April to May. Adequate moisture will promote good seed set, but even under adverse conditions of low moisture, seed will be produced in most years. Seed is ripe 6 to 9 weeks after flowering. There are 311,000 seeds per pound. The planting rate for most vegetative practices is 5 pounds pure live seed per acre drilled and 7 pounds pure live seed per acre broadcast.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring, Summer, Fall
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 3.3
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Summer
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -38
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Moderate
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.8–8.5 pH
Precipitation Range 16–16 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 12
Minimum Frost-Free Days 110 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Medium
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA