Leymus cinereus (Basin wildrye)

Formerly Elymus cinereus. Robust and very tall (4-8 ft.), cool season, perennial bunchgrass. Very drought tolerant but also withstands periodic flooding. Occurs from dry sage communities to wet meadows, up to 9,800 ft. elevation. Deep fibrous root system helps it thrive on sub-irrigated sites. Alkaline and saline tolerant. Excellent soil binder. Provides outstanding wind cover, nesting habitat and winter feed for herbivores and wildlife above snow level. Varieties listed below.


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Family: Poaceae

Duration: Perennial

Growth Habit: Graminoid

Native Status: Native

Season: Cool

Growth Form: Bunchgrass

Mature Height: 4-6 ft.

Annual Precipitation: 8-20 in.

Drought Tolerance: Medium

Shade Tolerance: Intolerant


Wetland Indicator Status: FAC

Fire Resistance: No

Fire Tolerance: High


Coarse Texture: Yes

Medium Texture: Yes

Fine Texture: Yes

Salinity Tolerance: High

CaCO3 Tolerance: High

pH Range: 5.6-9.0


Seeds per Pound: 144,000

Seeding Rate: 6-12 PLS lbs/acre

Season: Spring/Fall

Days to Germination:


Continental - Rapid stand establishment is similar or superior to Trailhead and Magnar. Excellent seed yield. (Released 2009)

Crooked River - Source Identified selection from the Crooked River National Grassland in Jefferson County, OR averaging 10-14 in. annual precipitation.

CTUIR - Source Identified selection from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Umatilla County, OR averaging 12-17 in. annual precipitation.

Grande Ronde - Source Identified selection out of Union County, OR.

Magnar - Robust and productive, often reaching heights over 8 ft. Cold hardy, long-lived and drought tolerant. Survives on alkaline sites and with moderately high water tables. (Released 1979)

NBR - Source Identified selection from the Northern Basin and Range ecoregion in Malheur County, OR averaging 8-11 in. annual precipitation.

Trailhead - Drought tolerant strain superior to earlier cultivars in productivity and stand longevity under dry, hot conditions. Survives in areas receiving as little as 6 in. of annual precipitation. (Released 1991)

Trailhead II - Increased total seedling establishment over Trailhead, Continental and Magnar. Seedling emergence rate also faster than Trailhead; occasionally taller at maturity. (Released 2016)