Arriba Western Wheatgrass

  • Scientific name: Pascopyrum smithii
  • ‘Arriba’ variety was released for dry land hay production
  • This specific variety is best for grazing
  • Used for conservation seedings
  • Excellent for revegetating rangeland and stabilizing soil

Quantity is per pound. Example: 1 = 1 lb, 2 = 2 lbs, 3 = 3lbs, etc. This is pure seed, not a live plant.


Arriba Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii Rydb.) is an important native range grass throughout the West. Used as a dryland western wheatgrass for hay, pasture, erosion control. Moderately palatable. One of the best known and most commonly used native grasses. A long lived, cool season species with coarse blue-green leaves with prominent veins. Because of its bluish appearance, it has been dubbed “Bluestem Wheatgrass” or “Bluejoint”. It is a sod former with very strong, spreading rhizomes. Stems arise singly or in clusters of a few and reach heights of 1 to 3 feet.

Arriba Western Wheatgrass Uses:

Because of its spreading rhizomes, Arriba Western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) is an excellent erosion control plant. Widely used in seed mixtures for range seeding, revegetation of saline and alkaline areas, and critical areas for erosion control in the central and northern Great Plains region, and in the southwestern United States. Frequently used in the Central Plains for surface mine revegetation. Also, because of its strong rhizomes and adaptation to a variety of soils it performs well as part of a reclamation mixture. Forage quality is high for pasture or range seedings.


Thickspike wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) replaces Arriba Western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) on coarser soils. Although it is able to grow on a wide variety of soils it prefers the heavier but well drained soils. Also, it requires moderate to high soil moisture content and is most common in the 10 to 14 inch annual precipitation zones. In addition, areas receiving over 20 inches per year western wheatgrass behaves as an increaser on rangelands, below 20 inches it is a decreaser. Its elevational range is 1,000 to 9,000 feet. Arriba western wheatgrass tolerates saline and saline-sodic soils, poor drainage and moderately severe drought. However, it will also tolerate spring flooding, high water tables, and considerable silt deposition. It is very cold hardy and can grow in partial shade. Grazing resistant and can survive fires if in the dormant stage. Recovery from fire is slow.

Western wheatgrass grows in association with many species, the more common being Blue GramaBuffalograssNeedlegrassesBluebunch Wheatgrass, rough fescue, Idaho Fescue, and Prairie Junegrass. It begins growth about 2 to 3 weeks before blue grama and does not mature until much later in the growing season.

Arriba western wheatgrass should not be used in the East because it performs poorly there. However, it is found in the west and midwest of the United States.


To begin, seed western wheatgrass in early spring, late fall or in the period of late summer, or early enough in the fall to allow 2 or 3 inches of leaf growth before winter. Seedling vigor is fair and stands may be slow to establish. Spreads more slowly and may take several years to become firmly established, but it has stronger rooting than thickspike wheatgrass. Once established, it is very hardy and enduring. It is moderately compatible with other species and is moderately aggressive.

The recommended planting rate is 5 pounds per acre (9 kg/ha) of pure live seed. To allow for cultivation, plant seed 0.25 to 0.50 inch (6 to 12 m) deep in rows 30 to 40 inches (80 to 100 cm) apart.

Western wheatgrass greens up in March or early April and matures in August. If moisture is adequate, it will make fair summer or fall regrowth. Applying nitrogen will help this variety compete with warm-season grasses.

Arriba western wheatgrass is moderately palatable to elk and cattle all year. Feed quality diminishes in late summer. Interestingly, cattle prefer it more than sheep, and it is only edible to deer in the spring. Grazing is possible if 50 to 60 percent of the annual growth is left uncut (3 or 4 inch stubble).  Western wheatgrass should be rest rotated. In dense stands it makes excellent hay and pasture. Irrigation will improve Arriba western wheatgrass stands and aid establishment. Weed control and fertilization will help. Pitting, chiseling, disking, and interseeding will stimulate stands of western wheatgrass.

Pests and Potential Problems: The primary pests to western wheatgrass are grasshoppers, ergot, and stem and leaf rusts. Notably, Arriba is average in tolerance to plant mites and rust infection.

Western Wheatgrass Cultivars:

‘Arriba’ was released for dry land hay production, grazing, and conservation seedings in the western part of the Central Plains and in the southwestern United States.

‘Barton’ is a strongly rhizomatous, leafy ecotype, intermediate in growth between northern and southern types.

‘Rosana’ is a northern type western wheatgrass. Plants are blue-green, leafy, with moderately fine stems. Rhizomes produce a tight sod. Recommended for reseeding depleted range lands and the reclamation of disturbed lands in the Northern Great Plains.

***Click on the “Quick Plant Facts” tab above for more information.

(Pascopyrum smithii )

‘Arriba’ Western Wheatgrass NRCS Plant Release

PDF version of NRCS Release Brochure

Citation: USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Los Lunas Plant Materials Center. Los Lunas, NM 87031 Code. Published August 1977; edited April 17, 2013 ds.

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(Pascopyrum smithii )

Western Wheatgrass NRCS Plant Fact Sheet

PDF version of NRCS Plant Guide & Fact Sheet

Prepared By & Species Coordinator:
USDA NRCS Plant Materials Program

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Helpful Links

Additional information about this product can be found on the academic websites linked below.


Many plants have more than one common and scientific name. We've listed a few of them below.

  • Pascopyrum smithii
  • Western Wheatgrass

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