Fuzzy-spiked Wildrye (Hairy Wildrye)

Jamie Fenneman
Scientific name: 

Leymus innovatus (Beal) Pilg.

Native Grass
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PR Suitability note: 
Fuzzy-spiked wildrye is found in native plant communities in the Peace Region.
Key considerations: 
Commonly found in disturbed areas, and it may have value for site rehabilitation when there is a native plant community objective. However, it prefers coarse textured soils and can be hard to grow from seed.
General Description: 

Fuzzy-spiked wildrye is sometimes called hairy wildrye, but is a different species than Elymus hirsutus, which is also commonly called hairy wildrye. Fuzzy-spiked wildrye is a tall, cool season, perennial tufted grass that is adapted to a wide range of soil conditions. It is sod-forming with a deep spreading root system and creeping scaly rhizomes. It is often used for native species site rehabilitation, as its rapidly spreading rhizomes are good for erosion control.

The stems can grow from 50 to 100 cm (20 to 39 in) tall with mainly basal leaves. Leaves can be up to 25 cm (10 in.) long and appear rolled at emergence. The leaves are somewhat hairy on the bottom side with prominent veins on the top side. Auricles are well developed and claw-like.

The inflorescences are dense, erect, purple or greyish. Spikes can be up to 12 cm (5 in.) long, and are very hairy. Spikelets usually occur in pairs and are 3- to 5-flowered. Lemmas are usually not awn-tipped, or may sometimes have awns 3 to 4 mm. Reproduction of this species occurs through rhizomes and seeds. It is an important native forage species for wildlife.

Native to North America.
Fuzzy-spiked wildrye occurs throughout the northern region in the Sub-Boreal Spruce and Boreal White and Black Spruce zones.
Habitat and climate: 
This species is most likely found in open forests and previously disturbed sites. Fuzzy-spiked wildrye is widely adapted to sandy or gravelly soils.
An important native component to open forests, disturbed sites, and rangelands. It provides important winter forage for mountain sheep in the northern region.
Forage yield (rating): 
Forage yield: 
Low to medium forage yield rating. It has been traditionally considered as poor forage value and poor palatability due to coarseness of the foliage. However, recent studies suggest cattle show good gains in pastures where fuzzy-spiked wildrye is prominent.
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Low palatability due to its coarse, rough foliage.
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Erosion control: 
Rapidly spreading rhizomes make this species well used for erosion control.
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Soil texture preference: 
Commonly found on sandy and gravelly textured soils.
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Acidity tolerance : 
Moderate tolerance to acidity (low pH) but low tolerance to alkalinity (high pH).
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Ease of establishment: 
Fuzzy-spiked wildrye can be hard to grow from seed as germination can be low. One source reports suitable germination but slower seedling growth.