Basin Wildrye

  • Scientific name: Leymus cinerius
  • Large, robust bunchgrass averaging 2 to 5 feet tall
  • Can grow up to 12′ tall in ideal conditions
  • Not tolerant of heavy grazing
  • Excellent erosion control and soil stabilization
  • Valuable restoration species

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

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Basin Wildrye (Leymus cinerius), sometimes called Great Basin Wildrye, is an unusually large, robust bunchgrass averaging 2 to 5 feet tall. In fact, it is the largest cool-season bunchgrass native to the western United States. It is noted for its deep blue-green color.

Under irrigation some varieties can grow up to 8 feet tall. Plants form large bunches up to 4 feet in diameter that are underlain by an extensive fibrous root system.  Basin wildrye grows on a wide variety of habitats, ranging from saline/alkaline valley bottoms to sagebrush and aspen woodlands. Optimal growth occurs in silty and clay soil in areas with 15 to 25 inches of annual precipitation, but it will sustain periods of drought. It is more common near riparian sites and in swales or other drainage-collection areas.

Basin Wildrye (Leymus cinerius)grows on riverbanks, in ravines, on moist or dry slopes, and on plains at elevations from 4500 on up to the steep mountain slopes at 10,000 feet elevation. It is adapted to areas with 15 to 25 inches of annual precipitation, and is usually found on sites where extra moisture is available, such as riparian sites or ponds. It is adapted to a wide range of soils from clay and silty soils in the deserts to coarse textured, gravelly, and stony soils. It does well in moderately saline soils. It starts growth in early spring, the seeds mature by August. Despite early spring growth, basin wildrye doesn’t produce seed until July. Seed heads are conspicuous because they grow 4-11 inches long. Germination rates are low and seedling vigor is fair. Most regeneration occurs through tillering and short rhizomes.

Basin wildrye is quite fire tolerant. It recovers well, especially if associated shrubs have been killed. It is not tolerant of heavy grazing, due to the high position of the growth buds (4 to 6 inches above the soil). Basin wildrye is highly palatable to elk in spring and summer, and highly palatable to mule deer in spring. It provides important cover and winter forage for elk and deer. It also provides habitat for upland game birds and food for songbirds and small mammals.

Basin wildrye provides excellent surface erosion control and soil stabilization and can be a valuable restoration species wherever moisture is adequate. It can be hard to establish due to a lack of highly germinable seed.

Basin wildrye is native to the Great Basin province.

Magnar, Trailhead and VNS are available.

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

(Leymus cinerius)

Basin Wildrye NRCS Plant Guide and Fact Sheet

PDF version of NRCS Plant Guide & Fact Sheet

Prepared By & Species Coordinator: Daniel G. Ogle USDA, NRCS, Idaho State Office, Boise, Idaho

Download PDF

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.

  • Leymus cinerius
  • Elymus cinereus

Who is Great Basin Seed?

Great Basin Seed is a seed company that specializes in seed sales and consultation for home, ranch, farm, range and reclamation. We have been a leader in the seed industry since 1974.

Our History

We've been in the seed business since 1974.

What We Offer

We offer seed for home, farm, ranch, range and reclamation projects.

Meet the Gang

We have the best employees in the world! We are proud of the work they do, and trust them to serve you!

Right: Company founder Lloyd and his wife Paula Stevens in a wildflower seed production field circa 1977

Quick Plant Facts
Zone Map


Min. Precipitation

8 Inches Minimum

Root Form


Best SowingTime

Spring or Fall

Sowing Rate

6-11 PLS lbs. per Acre

Seed Count


Plant PDF File


Available Varieties:


Growth Height:

Plant Type:


Root Form:

Max Sowing Depth:

Common Name:

Great Basin Wildrye

Scientific Name:

Old Scientific Name:

Growth Season:

Sun & Shade Tolerance:

Full Sun, Shade Intolerant

Elevation of Occurance:

Hardiness Zones:

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