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Great Basin Wild Rye

Scientific Name:

Leymus cinereus


Herbaceous Plant


High desert, grasslands, forests, and prairies


Western North America, particularly the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada mountains


No listed status

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Great Basin wild rye is a native bunch grass that can grow to over 6 feet tall, but averages around 3 to 5 feet tall. At full development, they may be up to 3 feet in diameter. The leaves of Great Basin wild rye are green leaf blades (the area of the plant that holds the leaf) and the actual leaves are about 1 inch at the most. The coloring of Great Basin wild rye flowers are generally deep blues and greens.

Fast Facts:

  • The seed heads (or pods) of Great Basin wild rye are easily seen because they can be up to around 11 inches long. The seeds naturally occur during the hot months beginning around July each year.

  • Great Basin wild rye has an extensive root system once it has taken root. The root system will sometimes include rhizomes.

  • Great Basin wild rye is considered a water-wise perennial shrub, a distinction that includes being drought resistant and, in some cases, fire resistant.

  • Great Basin wild rye can also be used as a plant to replace foliage from lands that have had damage from rodents, construction or erosion.

  • Great Basin wild rye is used by native animals for natural forage (food) including mule deer and pronghorns. Foraging can include winter months when there is a snow pack because of the height of the plant.

  • Great Basin wild rye is a natural “cover” habitat for deer, birds and other small animals because of it’s denseness and it’s natural wind resistant capabilities.

  • Cover for birds, including game birds, will include nesting and protection from the wind and winter conditions.



Pam Del Porto (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

June 29, 2021 at 11:25:33 PM

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