Canada Wildrye (Canadensis)

The Canada Wildrye (Canadensis) 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 late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until spring. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Canada Wildrye (Canadensis) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Canada Wildrye (Canadensis) will reach up to 3 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Canada Wildrye (Canadensis) 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 -32°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Restoration: Canada wildrye is often an early successional component of prairie mixtures.

Livestock: Canada wildrye provides good forage quality during the early part of the grazing season but is generally considered an inferior forage after it matures. It is fairly palatable to most livestock, and is rated good in energy value but poor in protein value.

Wildlife: Canada wildrye has fair to good palatability as food for wildlife. It also provides nesting, brood, winter, and escape cover.

Erosion Control: Exceptional seedling vigor and rapid establishment make Canada wildrye an excellent species for use in erosion control seedings. Stands of Canada wildrye typically establish during the 1st year, reach peak production the 2nd or 3rd year, and then rapidly thin out. This species is sometimes used in seeding mixtures where quick development and stabilization is needed.

General Characteristics

Canada wildrye is a native perennial bunchgrass that grows to 4 feet with erect or arching culms and flat, wide (up to 0.8 inches), waxy green, pointed leaves that grow from the base of the stem to the spike. Auricles are claw-like and clasping, arising from a broad, yellowish or light green collar. The thick and bristly spikelets can reach 10 inches in length, and are often 2 or 3 to a node. There are approximately 115,000 seeds per pound.

Required Growing Conditions

Canada wildrye is a short-lived, cool-season grass found on sandy shores and dunes; wooded areas, especially along trails, rivers and streams; and other disturbed sites throughout much of the North America. Seedlings are vigorous and establish quickly, but are not highly competitive with other grasses. Growth begins later in the spring and lasts longer into the summer than growth of smooth brome. It is moderately drought tolerant and winter hardy. It has good tolerance to salinity and tolerates shade very well.

Canada wildrye is distributed throughout the northeast, north, and western United States.

Cultivation and Care

Canada wildrye is typically seeded in a mix with warm season and/or other cool season grasses. Native forbs can also be included to enhance the restoration benefits. Planting may be completed in the spring or late fall, or early fall if moisture conditions are satisfactory. The seedbed should be firm and weed problems eliminated prior to planting. Seeding rates will vary between 0.5 and 4.0 lbs./acre depending on the mix and site conditions. If planted alone, solid seed at 10 lbs./acre (for conservation use), or 5 lbs. acre in rows (for seed production).

General Upkeep and Control

For good quality, nutritious hay Canada wildrye should be cut just as the heads are emerging from the boot. When used for pasture, grazing should be delayed until there is at least 5 inches of growth. Canada wildrye generally decreases in response to grazing.

Because its crown has coarse stems and leaves, Canada wildrye is somewhat resistant to fire mortality. However, susceptibility increases when burns are conducted after the initiation of spring growth.

Pests and Potential Problems Canada wildrye is susceptible to leaf and stem rust, and to ergot.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) ‘Mandan’ (North Dakota) was released by ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory for use in the northern Great Plains states.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring, Summer, Fall
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 3
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Spring
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -32
Soil Depth for Roots 16
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 5–7.9 pH
Precipitation Range 20–20 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Medium
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

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