Plant Guide > Grasses > Western Wheat Grass

Western Wheat Grass

WESTERN WHEAT GRASS (Agropyron occidentale Scribn.)

Other Latin name: Agropyron Smithii Rydb.

Other English names: Colorado Blue-stem, Blue-joint, Alkali Grass.

Western Wheat Grass is strongly perennial with a creeping rootstock similar to that of Couch Grass. The plants do not grow in tufts, like Western Rye Grass, but form an open sod with scattered stems and leafy shoots like Couch Grass. The whole plant is bluish green which accounts for the names Blue-stem and Blue-joint. The stems are from one to four feet high and rather stout. The leaves are comparatively long, firm in texture, flat, or in dry localities rolled together.

The inflorescence is strongly flattened, broader and denser than that of Western Rye Grass. The spikelets are about twice as long and contain a greater number of flowers-generally about eight. In a spikelet of Western Rye the two lowest glumes are about as long as the whole spikelet, whereas in Western Wheat they are about half as long.

Western Wheat Grass is indigenous to western Canada from Saskatchewan to the Rocky Mountains. In the United States it extends westward from Michigan and Kansas.

Like Couch Grass, it is not very particular about soil and locality, occurring on the open plains as well as on the foot hills. Although extremely resistant to drought, it is not found as a rule on very sandy or dry soil. It prefers rich land and makes a luxuriant growth where sufficient moisture is available. As the name Alkali Grass indicates, it does better than most other hay or pasture grasses on saline soil.

The agricultural value of Western Wheat Grass is little known. In some of the western states it is considered valuable, especially for pasture, and it is thought to be highly nutritive. Its creeping rootstock and its spreading habit are apt to make it sod-bound, however, and it may not be worth cultivation.