Seed collected from MPF’s Stilwell Prairie. Photo: Scott Lenharth

Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus)

Distinguishing Characteristics

Leaves up to 12 inches long and up to 3/8-inch wide, green to bluish green, sometimes with a whitish coating; base of leaves commonly with a pair of small, purple, ear-shaped appendages (auricles).


2 to 3 feet




Relatively stiff, erect spikes are up to 5 inches long. Lower part of spike is often enclosed by the sheath.


Found throughout Missouri in variety of habitats–most common in river bottoms. Often colonizes fallowed river bottom fields. Virginia wild rye occasionally is used in seeding mixes or as a cover crop in riparian or wetland restoration projects. A native cool-season grass that should be considered as a possible alternative to introduced grasses such as tall fescue or reed canary grass for grassed waterways and pastures.

small tan seeds next to ruler showing size.

Seeds (scale is in 1/16 inch increments)

small green seedling


Sall green plant with opp leaves


Sall green plant with opp leaves

Distinguishing Characteristics

Sall green plant with opp leaves