Elymus virginicus L.

common eastern wild-rye

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Various insects feed on common eastern wild-rye, ducks sometimes eat the seedheads, and geese feed on the foliage.

Habitat

Brackish or salt marshes and flats, cliffs, balds, or ledges, coastal beaches (sea beaches), forests, marshes, shores of rivers or lakes, talus and rocky slopes, wetland margins (edges of wetlands)

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
2–18 mm
Inflorescence branches
there are no branch points between the base of the inflorescence axis and the flowers, or they are not obvious
Spikelet length
10–15 mm
Glume relative length
  • both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
  • neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
Awn on glume
the glume has an awn
One or more florets
there is more than one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
3–25 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
0–1 mm
Anther length
2–4 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    2–4 mm
    Anther number
    3
    Awn on glume
    the glume has an awn
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret number
    2–6
    Floret types within spikelet
    all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    Glume awn length
    3–15 mm
    Glume keel
    NA
    Glume relative length
    • both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
    • neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
    Glume shape
    the glume is flat or curved in cross-section
    Glume veins
    • 3
    • 5
    • 7 or more
    Glumes per spikelet
    2
    Inflorescence arrangement
    the spikelets are uniform
    Inflorescence axis hairs
    • the inflorescence axis is hairy but not rough or sand-papery feeling
    • the inflorescence axis is rough and feels like sand-paper
    • the inflorescence axis is smooth and has no hairs
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    • the inflorescence axis is arched or curved outward
    • the inflorescence axis is straight
    Inflorescence branch length
    0 cm
    Inflorescence branch roughness
    NA
    Inflorescence branches
    there are no branch points between the base of the inflorescence axis and the flowers, or they are not obvious
    Inflorescence branches coming off the lowest stem node
    0
    Inflorescence crowding
    NA
    Inflorescence length
    30–220 mm
    Inflorescence length to width ratio
    3–8.8
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the inflorescence is a spike, or is spike-like, lacking obvious branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    the inflorescence is a spike (a long unbranched stem with flowers along it that lack stalks)
    Inflorescence width
    10–25 mm
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn coiled
    the lemma awn is straight or twisted, but not coiled one half turn
    Lemma awn length
    3–25 mm
    Lemma awn number
    the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma awn orientation
    the awn of the lemma is straight
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is flat or rounded if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma hairs
    • the lemma has fine hairs between the veins
    • the lemma is hairless between the veins
    Lemma keel hairs
    the keel of the lemma is rough, or has fine hairs
    Lemma marginal vein hairs
    • the marginal vein of the lemma has fine hairs on it
    • the marginal vein of the lemma is hairless
    Lemma surface
    the surface of the lemma is relatively smooth (not counting any longitudinal veins or hairs)
    Lemma tip
    the lemma tip is a simple point, with or without an awn (long narrow extension ending in a point)
    Lemma tip shape
    the lemma tip tapers to a narrow point (it may or may not also have an awn or teeth at the tip)
    Lemma vein number
    • 5
    • 7 or more
    Lemma vein orientation
    the veins on the lemma stay roughly parallel throughout
    Lower glume length
    7–15 mm
    Lower glume relative length
    the lower glume is nearly as long, or as long as, the upper glume
    One or more florets
    there is more than one floret per spikelet
    Palea length
    5–9 mm
    Palea relative length
    palea is one half to fully as long as lemma
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers on the plant have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Spikelet axis tip
    there is no extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet disintegration
    • the spikelet breaks off above the glumes, so that after the florets fall off, the glumes remain
    • the spikelet breaks off below the glumes
    Spikelet length
    10–15 mm
    Spikelet number per node
    2–3
    Spikelet pedicel
    the spikelets do not have pedicels
    Spikelet pedicel length
    0 mm
    Spikelet position
    NA
    Spikelet shape
    • the spikelets are elliptic (widest in the middle, tapering to the ends) in profile
    • the spikelets are oblong (rectangular, but with rounded ends) in profile
    Spikelets per panicle branch
    0
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Tip of glume
    the tip of the glume is not divided (though it may have an awn on it)
    Upper glume length
    7–15 mm
    Upper glume relative length
    the upper glume is more than one half as long as the lowest lemma
  • Fruits or seeds
    Groove on seed
    the caryopsis has a groove running most of its length
  • Growth form
    Horizontal rooting stem
    no
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Rhizomes
    no
    Roots
    there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Basal leaves
    the plant has few or no leaves coming from the base of the flowering stem
    Leaf auricles
    • the leaves do not have auricles
    • the leaves have auricles
    Leaf basal lobe hairy
    NA
    Leaf blade cross-section
    • the leaf blade is clearly folded or rolled inwards
    • the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section, or slightly folded or rolled inwards
    Leaf blade hairs
    • the leaf blade is hairless, but it may have tiny prickles that give it a sand-papery feel
    • the leaf blade is hairy
    Leaf blade length
    Up to 30 cm
    Leaf blade texture
    • the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    • the leaf blade is smooth, or it may have soft hairs
    Leaf blade width
    2–18 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    0–1 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    • the leaf ligule is absent
    • the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane
    Leaf margin glands
    there are no glands along the edges of the leaf blade
    Leaf sheath closed around stem
    the margins of the leaf sheath are overlapping and not fused together except in the basal half (or less)
    Leaf sheath color and persistence
    the leaf sheathes are reddish-brown and disintegrate or become shredded in older leaves
    Leaf sheath hair type
    there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath hairs
    • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Orientation of topmost leaf
    • the flag leaf is held outward at more than a 45 degree angle from the stem, or it curves downwards from the horizontal
    • the flag leaf is held upright, or at less than a 45 degree angle out from the stem
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • brackish or salt marshes and flats
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • edges of wetlands
    • forests
    • marshes
    • sea beaches
    • shores of rivers or lakes
    • talus or rocky slopes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Hairs at nodes
    the stem nodes are hairless or they have very sparse hairs
    Plant height
    30–130 cm
    Stem hairs
    • the stem has hairs on it
    • the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem node number
    4–9
    Stem orientation
    • the stems are upright
    • the stems trail at the base, but turn upwards at the tips
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACW)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Maine
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. halophilus

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. virginicus

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Elymus curvatus:
lemma awns absent or up to 3 mm long and leaf blades often somewhat involute, usually ascending (vs. E. virginicus, with lemma awns mostly 3-15 mm long and leaf blades flat or involute, usually laxly spreading).
Elymus macgregorii:
glume awns 10-25 mm long and spikelets loosely ascending (vs. E. virginicus, with glume awns 3-10 mm long and spikelets appressed).

Synonyms

  • Elymus hirsutiglumis Scribn.
  • Elymus virginicus var. hirsutiglumis (Scribn.) A.S. Hitchc.

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Elymus

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Elymus virginicus L. var. virginicus is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT.E. virginicus var. halophilus (Bickn.) Wieg. is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI.E. virginicus var. intermedius (Vasey ex Gray) Bush is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT.E. virginicus var. jejunus (Ramaley) Bushis known from CT, MA, ME, NH. Varieties intermedius and jejunus are less common than the other varieties.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

10.  Elymus virginicus L. N Fig. 223 , 224

common eastern wild-rye.  10a. Elymus hirsutiglumis Scribn.; E. virginicus L.  var. 
 hirsutiglumis (Scribn.) A.S. Hitchc.;   10b. Elymus striatus Willd.;  10c. Elymus halophilus Bickn.;  10d. Elymus jejunus (Ramaley) Rydb. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Riparian forests, 
river banks, rocky forests, cliff bases, coastal beaches, upper margin of saline marshes.

1a.  Lemmas pubescent [Fig. 223]; spikes glaucous; ligules and auricles usually absent; plants flowering July through August … 10a. E. virginicus var. intermedius (Vasey ex Gray) Bush

1b.  Lemmas glabrous or minutely scabrous; spikes green or glaucous; ligules and auricles often present; plants flowering prior to August

2a.  Spikes often partly included in the upper leaf sheath [Fig. 224]; glumes 1–2.3 mm wide, strongly indurate and bowed out in the basal (1.5–) 2–4 mm; plants usually green to yellow-brown in life; nodes often covered by overlapping leaf sheaths 
 … 10b. E. virginicus var. virginicus

2b.  Spikes usually exserted from the upper leaf sheath; glumes 0.7–1.5 (–1.8) mm wide, moderately indurate and bowed out in the basal 1–2 mm; plants usually glaucous, sometimes with red-brown coloration, in life; nodes usually exposed

3a.  Reproductive stems mostly 3–8 dm tall, with 4–6 nodes; leaf blades 2–9 mm wide, becoming involute; spikes 3.5–11 cm tall, strongly glaucous; glumes indurate in the basal 1–2 mm … 10c. E. virginicus var. halophilus (Bickn.) Wieg.

3b.  Reproductive stems mostly 7–10 dm tall, with 6–8 nodes; leaf blades 3–15 mm wide, flat; spikes 4–20 cm tall, pale green to glaucous; glumes indurate only in the basal 1 mm 
 … 10d. E. virginicus var. jejunus (Ramaley) Bush

Variety intermedius is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Variety virginicus is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Variety halophilus is known from CT, MA, ME, NH, RI. Variety jejunus is known from CT, MA, ME, NH. Varieties intermedius and jejunus are less common than the other varieties.