Basin wildrye

(Leymus cinereus (Scribn. & Merr.) Löve )




Synonyms
Elymus cinereus Scribn. & Merr.
Description
Basin wildrye is a large, coarse bunchgrass with reaching 6 feet. The culms are smooth except near the nodes. The leaf blades are tough or fibrous and usually smooth. The inflorescence spike, up to ten inches long, usually has two to four spikelets pe r node. The central ones sometimes have a short pedicel. The lemma may have a minute awn.
Distribution and habitat
Native in the Great Basin area, basin wildrye extends into California along the east Sierras. It is typically found in the Pinyon-Juniper biome, along riverbanks, ravines, and moist slopes, but in Arizona it has been recorded on dry hills, plains and some of the river bottoms of Yavapai and Coconino counties. Basin wildrye tolerates alkaline soil, sand and yearly rainfall of 5-10 inches.
General information
Basin wildrye can produce abundant forage in areas where few other species are adapted. Cattle consume new leaves and smaller stems in early spring. By summer, the foliage is harsh and tough, and it is left ungrazed if more palatable species are avail able. Horses consume the ripe seedheads; sheep prefer the tender young leaves and seedheads. Basin wildrye is valuable winter forage, because it is tall enough to be grazed when more palatable species are covered by snow. Basin wildrye can provide satisfa ctory food in the winter if it is supplemented with more nutritious forage such as alfalfa.