SPECIES: Elymus canadensis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Simonin, Kevin A. 2000. Elymus canadensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
NRCS PLANT CODE :
nodding wild rye
The currently accepted scientific name of Canada wildrye is Elymus canadensis L. (Poaceae) [34,39,47,53,97]. Barkworth and Dewey  recognize no varieties or forms in North America. Canada wildrye hybridizes with slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus) , Texas wildrye (E. interruptus) , and Virginia wildrye (E. virginicus) .
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status
Canada wildrye is widely distributed throughout North America. It is found from Alaska to Nova Scotia and occurs throughout the United States except for the extreme southeast portion [6,36,39,50]. Canada wildrye is most abundant within the Great Plains, Pacific Northwest, and the Rocky Mountain states .
FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES40 Desert grasslands
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
KUCHLER  PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest
K021 Southwestern spruce-fir forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K026 Oregon oakwoods
K029 California mixed evergreen forest
K030 California oakwoods
K031 Oak-juniper woodland
K032 Transition between K031 and K037
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K057 Galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe
K063 Foothills prairie
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K076 Blackland prairie
K081 Oak savanna
K088 Fayette prairie
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K101 Elm-ash forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
5 Balsam fir
20 White pine-northern red oak-red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine-hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock-yellow birch
25 Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch
30 Red spruce-yellow birch
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce-balsam fir
35 Paper birch-red spruce-balsam fir
40 Post oak-blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak
53 White oak
59 Yellow-poplar-white oak-northern red oak
93 Sugarberry-American elm-green ash
110 Black oak
210 Interior Douglas-fir
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
222 Black cottonwood-willow
236 Bur oak
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
246 California black oak
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
209 Montane shrubland
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
409 Tall forb
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
601 Bluestem prairie
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass
604 Bluestem-grama prairie
605 Sandsage prairie
611 Blue grama-buffalo grass
710 Bluestem prairie
717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass
721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)
722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie
731 Cross timbers-Oklahoma
732 Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)
802 Missouri prairie
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Canada wildrye is widely distributed throughout the Great Plains . It commonly occurs in the sand prairies of Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Manitoba . Canada wildrye is common in northeastern Colorado grass meadows and valley floors of the sandhill region . It is also a common component of Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado . Canada wildrye is found throughout all of Illinois and is a common component of Illinois' mesic prairies . In Iowa, Canada wildrye is a dominant native prairie grass . Lowland prairies are preferred, but widely scattered bunches infrequently occur in upland prairies . Canada wildrye is native to prairie in Ohio . The Edwards Plateau region of Texas supports Canada wildrye .
Canada wildrye is a dominant species of the Lake Huron dune system along with prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) .
In Kansas, Canada wildrye is a component of tallgrass prairie along with big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii), little bluestem, Indiangrass, (Sorghastrum nutans), switchgrass, prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), and smooth brome (Bromus inermis) . Canada wildrye is also found in mixed grass prairie along with buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), big bluestem [1,60] and rough dropseed (Sporobolus asper) . Within Nebraska tallgrass prairies, Canada wildrye occurs in isolated clumps commonly associated with switchgrass, prairie dropseed, little bluestem, prairie Junegrass, and western wheatgrass .
In true prairie lowlands, where big bluestem is dominant, Canada wildrye is a principal associate along with Indiangrass and switchgrass .
Canada wildrye is common to many forested areas. In California, Canada wildrye is found in the North Coast Range mixed evergreen and mixed hardwood forests . In Wisconsin Canada wildrye Occurs in elm (Ulmus spp.)-ash (Fraxinus spp.)-cottonwood (Populus spp.) habitats along with switchgrass, prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata), Canada bluegrass (Poa compressa), pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), and common cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) . It occurs in post oak (Quercus stellata)-Hickory (Carya spp.) barrens of southern Illinois . Canada wildrye is commonly found within east-central Minnesota oak savannas with bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), and northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) . It is found in ponderosa pine habitats of the southwest .
Riparian and other wetlands support populations of Canada wildrye. Canada wildrye occurs in prairie fens of the southeastern Missouri Ozarks . Canada wildrye is an understory component of eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) riparian habitats of northeastern Colorado . Canada wildrye inhabits incised channel banks of ephemeral streams within north-central Wyoming . In Montana Canada wildrye is found in association with eastern cottonwood along the Missouri River flood plain. It is a component of green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) communities along with young and mature eastern cottonwood communities adjacent to the Yellowstone River . Overall, Canada wildrye is a common component of riparian communities in association with red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), golden currant (Ribes aureum), Wood's rose (Rosa woodsii), and western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis). Riparian grass associates include smooth brome, and green muhly (Muhlenbergia racemosa) .
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Canada wildrye provides good forage for livestock early in the season but is considered inferior forage upon maturity [49,83,93]. It is considered as fair forage in Montana, readily eaten in the early spring, but avoided after development of seed stalks .
Cougars in Utah and Nevada may feed on Canada wildrye . Cottontail rabbits in Missouri will also feed upon Canada wildrye .
When young, Canada wildrye is palatable to all classes of livestock . Overall, Canada wildrye is generally rated as fair, decreasing with maturity .
The degree of palatability for Canada wildrye in several western states has been rated as follows :
|Small nongame birds||----||----||----||Fair||Fair|
|Upland game birds||----||----||Poor||Fair||Poor|
|Collection date||Water||Ash||Cell wall||Phosphorus||Protein|
|Leaves and stem||5/24/73||41||12||64||0.13||9|
|Leaves and stem||6/28/73||57||10||65||0.22||8|
|Leaves and stem||7/27/73||50||13||60||0.20||7|
|Leaves and stem||10/25/73||60||13||66||0.22||9|
|Small nongame birds||Poor||Fair||Good||Good|
|Upland game birds||Fair||Good||Fair||Good|
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Ecotypic variation should be considered when implementing revegetation projects. McMillan  observed Canada wildrye individuals obtained from different location after transplanting to a community garden in Lincoln, Nebraska. Individuals obtained from Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado flowered earlier than individuals from the remainder of the Great Plains states. Canada wildrye Individuals from Iowa, Illinois, eastern Nebraska, and Missouri showed the latest flowering dates, generally between 15 July to 19 July. Individuals form Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado generally flower during the middle to end of June.
Once established, Canada wildrye increases habitat stability. It provides a good source of litter, seed, and soil organic matter . Canada wildrye also provides good erosion control [7,58]. Seedlings of Canada wildrye are vigorous. Good stands are generally formed the 1st year with peak production occurring the 2nd and 3rd years; after which populations thin rapidly .
Canada wildrye is readily grown for seed production [5,21], and seed is commercially available [23,43,67]. Cooper and others  along with Atkins and Smith , provide suggestions for producing and harvesting Canada wildrye seed within the Great Plains.
Greene and Curtis  found cold stratification (storing seeds in loam soil at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 °C) for 2 months) greatly increased germination compared to unstratified seed. Seeds observed were collected in the prairie of southern Wisconsin. Blake  found dry storage to produce better germination results than stratification.
Mine spoil soils:
Canada wildrye is tolerant of heavy metals from abandoned tailings [19,42]. Eddleman and Doescher  found no significant difference in Canada wildrye shoot biomass when grown in native soil and strip mine spoil soils of southeastern Montana. Hardell and Darrell  achieved high germination from hand broadcast and raking Canada wildrye seed on an open pit surface mine in Wisconsin. Noyd and others  had great success seeding Canada wildrye for reclamation of a mine in northeastern Minnesota. The 2nd growing season Canada wildrye was the dominant species. Smith  was successful revegetation mine spoil soils in British Columbia with Canada wildrye seed. Amending revegetation sites with 5cm of topsoil allowed for the greatest persistence of Canada wildrye which achieved 5% cover at 5 postseeding years, outperforming all other grass species used in the seed mixture.
Robocker and others  found Canada wildrye seedlings to have rapid root and shoot growth when compared to the prairie associates big bluestem, switchgrass, and sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) when grown in greenhouse conditions of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5-18.3 °C) or 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7-29.4 °C). Root and shoot growth of Canada wildrye was approximately 10 times greater at 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5-18.3 °C) and approximately 2 times greater at 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7-29.4 °C).
Canada wildrye does not compete well with Kentucky bluegrass or quackgrass (Elymus repens) . Mycorrhizae may decrease Canada wildrye's competitive ability when associated with obligate mycotrophs .
Canada wildrye was a component of seed mixtures used to revegetate rural roadsides in Iowa .
Turnball and Gossan  observed an infrequent occurrence of head smut (Ustillago bullata) on Canada wildrye when inoculated with spores obtained from different host plants. The infection (%) of Canada wildrye inoculated with head smut from 3 host species is summarized below:
|Host plant||Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum)||Foxtail barley (Critesion jubatum)||Slender wheatgrass|
Canada wildrye may reproduce through seed or vegetative production. However, it does not rely heavily on vegetative reproduction [86,96]. Canada wildrye produces a high ratio of reproductive to vegetative stems  and persistence is generally maintained through production of seed .
Canada wildrye may outcross [36,76] or self-fertilize [6,36,76]. Sanders and Hamrick  found Canada wildrye most often self-fertilizes throughout the northern Great Plains with outcrossing rates varying between populations. Gable  observed a much greater outcrossing percentage than that of self-fertilization.
Throughout its distribution, Canada wildrye seed usually matures in the early fall . In the southern portion of its' range, Canada wildrye seed most often mature in July with northern populations maturing in August . Seed yields can average 300 to 400 lbs. (136-181 kg) per acre from native stands . There is no report on seed dispersal mechanisms. However, the presence of long awns suggests the potential for long distance dispersal by animals.
Canada wildrye seeds are highly germinable, showing the best germination in soils with high water content . Seedlings are vigorous [49,98] and usually establish quickly . Robocker and others  found Canada wildrye seeds required an average of 8 days before emergence. Seeds were planted in flats at 0.125 to 0.25 inch (0.318-0.64 cm) depths containing a mixture of 1/2 sand and 1/2 Miami silt loam topsoil and germinated in greenhouse conditions at 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16-18 °C). Average emergence was 54.7%.
Rhizomes are very short and tend toward vertical rather than horizontal orientation. Mueller  found an average rhizome length of 1 inch (2.5 cm), usually occurring in the upper 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of soil. Rhizomes are more pronounced in loose sandy soil compared to loams. Rhizomes are generally longer in sandy soils compared to loams and may occur as deep as 5 inches (12.7 cm). Observations were made in east-central Nebraska, where average radial increase of Canada wildrye was 2 inches (5.1 cm) per year in loam and approximately 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in sand.
Canada wildrye is most often associated with mesic environments [21,81,86], inhabiting prairies, streambanks, lakeshores, ditches, and various disturbed sites  such as road ditches and other areas of disturbed open ground [36,81,86]. In general Canada wildrye prefers mesic, lowland soils .
Canada wildrye is adapted to a wide variety of soils [5,21,39,98]. It may inhabit gravelly , sandy, silty, or clayey soils  and areas of relatively low soil fertility  especially the soil nutrient phosphorous .
Canada wildrye prefers prairie lowlands of Iowa , Kansas , and Nebraska [81,86]. In North Dakota, Canada wildrye is most often found in moist ravines and streambanks . In sandhill regions of North Dakota, Canada wildrye occurs on disturbed uplands most often around animal burrows and rim areas of sand blowouts . Canada wildrye is commonly found along roadsides adjacent to croplands, pastures, and woodlands in southeastern Iowa .
Populations are sparse in the west. In Utah Canada wildrye is found along waterways and in wet, sometimes saline meadows . It is confined to moist ravines and streambanks in eastern Montana, but is widespread in moist mountain valleys of western Montana at medium and low altitudes . Canada wild rye is most often found on disturbed areas in California .
Canada wildrye is generally an early seral species [27,59,80], increasing with disturbance. In Wisconsin prairies, regular disturbance from annual floods maintains Canada wildrye as an early seral dominant . Canada wildrye is a pioneer species along many roadsides in Montana .
In sandhills of southeastern North Dakota, Canada wildrye is considered a mid-seral species .
Canada wildrye growing points appear early in the growing season . Lateral roots of seedlings form early and branch widely. Overall growth of foliage is slow compared to root growth . Canada wildrye may show summer dormancy during periods of drought, resuming growth in the fall under adequate moisture .
In mesic tallgrass prairies of Nebraska, Canada wildrye vegetative growth usually begins in late April, flowering in mid-July with seeds maturing in August . Seedlings may survive through winter resuming active growth in the spring .
Neiland and Curtis  observed Canada wildrye phenology in Madison, Wisconsin. Stem elongation began the middle of May, continuing to the end of June, after which anthesis began and continued until the middle of August. Production of crown roots was observed from February until the end of May, occurring again in August. Secondary and tertiary root growth was found to occur from February until the middle of June and again from the beginning of August until the beginning of October.
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Although a perennial species, Canada wildrye persistence is dependent upon rapid reproduction through seed rather than length of life of the individual . Postfire establishment occurs primarily through seed with vegetative production of the root crown to a lesser extent .
Fire regimes for plant communities and ecosystems in which Canada wildrye occurs are summarized below. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|bluestem prairie||Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium||< 10 [56,69]|
|Nebraska sandhills prairie||A. g. var. paucipilus-S. s.||< 10|
|bluestem-Sacahuista prairie||Andropogon littoralis-Spartina spartinae||< 10|
|sagebrush steppe||Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata||20-70|
|plains grasslands||Bouteloua spp.||< 35|
|blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass||B. gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii||< 35|
|blue grama-buffalo grass||B. g.-Buchloe dactyloides||< 35 |
|sugarberry-America elm-green ash||Celtis laevigata-Ulmus americana-Fraxinus pennsylvanica||< 35 to 200 |
|wheatgrass plains grasslands||Pascopyrum smithii||< 35 |
|Great Lakes spruce-fir||Picea-Abies spp.||35 to > 200|
|northeastern spruce-fir||Picea-Abies spp.||35-200 |
|Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine*||Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum||2-10|
|Arizona pine||P. var. arizonica||2-10 |
|Table Mountain pine||P. pungens||< 35 to 200 |
|red pine (Great Lakes region)||P. resinosa||10-200 (10**) |
|eastern cottonwood||Populus deltoides||< 35 to 200 |
|mountain grasslands||Pseudoroegneria spicata||3-40 (10**) [3,4]|
|California oakwoods||Quercus spp.||< 35 |
|oak-hickory||Quercus-Carya spp.||< 35|
|oak savanna||Q. macrocarpa/Andropogon gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium||2-14 [69,91]|
|little bluestem-grama prairie||Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp.||< 35 |
|elm-ash-cottonwood||Ulmus-Fraxinus-Populus spp.||< 35 to 200 [26,91]|
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Canada wildrye is usually top-killed by fire. The coarse stems and leaves of Canada wildrye make it less prone to prolonged burning [99,100]. Little heat is transferred to crown and basal buds located just below the ground surface .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
Howe  evaluated postburn response of Canada wildrye within a tallgrass prairie of south-west Wisconsin. Canada wildrye decreased in relation to warm season associates, when subjected to early spring burn (late March) or left unburned. A decrease in Canada wildrye also occurred following mid-summer fire (15 July). However, a greater persistence of Canada wildrye was observed in mid-summer burned areas versus unburned controls. Details of this study and others by Howe are described in the research project summary, Herbaceous responses to seasonal burning in experimental tallgrass prairie plots.
Canada wildrye showed "good" vegetative growth following a February fire in an Iowa prairie. The fire occurred directly after winter snowmelt. Although the fire had no effect upon yield, anthesis and overall growth began a few weeks earlier in burned versus unburned areas. The area studied was burned 9 years prior .
A "small" (2.0 hectare) August fire within a plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. monilifera) forest of Alberta had no significant (p<0.05) effect on Canada wildrye cover when compared to unburned sites . An August fire in the Hayden Prairie of northeastern Iowa had no significant effect on Canada wildrye seedstalk number and height the following growing season, when compared to unburned areas. The relative production of Canada wildrye plant parts on burned and unburned areas is summarized below :
|Seed stalks #/bundle||105.0||102.0|
|Seed stalk average height (inches)||46.0||46.0|
|Seed stalk weight (grams)||113.5||111.0|
|Fruit purity (%)||40.1||47.9|
|Fruit germination (%)||8.0||44.0|
|Fruit weight (grams)||45.5||49.4|
|Leaf blades average length (inches)||18.0||18.0|
|Leaf blade weight (grams)||45.5||49.4|
|Leaf sheaths average length (inches)||6.0||6.0|
|Leaf sheaths weight (grams)||47.3||48.2|
|Total weight (grams)||258.3||256.0|
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Slinkard and others  were successful broadcast seeding Canada wildrye in November within a ponderosa pine forest after a late summer fire in northern Idaho. "Excellent" stands were observed in September the following year and in July at 3 postseeding years.
In burned ponderosa pine areas of the Southwest, Canada wildrye provides good erosion control .
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