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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Assessment of Elymus spp. in the southeastern United States
Year: 2010
Author(s): Rushing, B., Baldwin, B.
Source Title:
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 86
Original Publication:  
Abstract: Introduced species account for a majority of forage grasses grown for livestock in North America. Cool-season non-native species include: tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), annual and perennial ryegrass (Lolium spp.), bluegrass (Poa spp.), and orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata). Wildrye is a native cool-season perennial grass with forage potential. It also has potential for prairie restoration and conservation projects. Literature usually cites only two species, E. virginicus and E. canadensis, however there are six main species that are commonly found in the southeastern United States: E. canadensis, E. virginicus, E. hystrix, E. riparius, E. villosus, and E. glabriflorus. The goal of this project is to accurately describe the differences in each species, briefly summarize the plant community in which they inhabit, discover their potential use in forage or wildlife plantings, and define any traits they may be useful in native grass breeding programs. Differences between these six species are very acute, however each fills an important role in their respective habitat. E. virginicus prefers moist soils and higher soil fertility. This shade tolerant species can produce as much as 3,700 kg of dry weight forage per dryland hectare. E. hystrix, otherwise known as glumeless wildrye or bottlebrush grass, is also a shade tolerant species that produces fewer seed. E. glabriflorus grows in a variety of soils and can be found in tall grasslands and open woods. This species is a prime candidate for a native cool-season forage due to its full-sun tolerance. E. villosus is a lesser known wildrye that is shorter in stature and has a hairier seed head. E. riparius, or riverbank wildrye, is similar to Virginia wildrye, except it possesses nodding spikes and is glumeless. It can grow in much poorer soils including rocky and woody slopes. E. canadensis, or Canada wildrye, is not found in the deep south, but can be observed on sandy soils in the upper southeast along forest borders, riverbanks, and streams. Canada wildrye is palatable for most livestock with high energy, but poor protein. These summaries will help in establishing a base knowledge that, in turn, will benefit land managers in determining which species would be best suited for their project.
Publisher: Proceedings of the Seventh Eastern Native Grass Symposium. Knoxville, TN, October 5-8, 2010
Editor(s): C. Harper