Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia Wild-rye - Elymus virginicus   L.
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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DistributionThroughout the state? Note: with the resurrection of E. glabriflorus, all NC records of E. virginicus need to be re-checked. The current map is very likely to lose a number of counties. As example, only the following counties at UNC Chapel Hill were annotated by J.J.N. Campbell as E. virginicus sensu stricto: Alamance, Avery, Chatham, Cherokee, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Franklin, Lee, Orange, Polk, Washington, Yancey. However, the Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora websites says: "The status of the four vars. [halophilus, virginicus, and two not found in NC] has not been determined, although field and herbarium studies suggest that var. virginicus is common and widespread over the full range of habitats in the state." And, note also that E. glabriflorus and E. macgregorii have already been pulled out of E. virginicus and mapped separately on that website. Therefore, it indeed is likely that true E. virginicus (sensu stricto) does occur statewide in NC and commonly at that.

Newf. to Sask., south to northern FL and TX.
AbundanceConsidered as common statewide in VA, and should be considered in NC as common in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, and fairly common in the mountains, until further notice.
HabitatFloodplain forests and bottomlands, both brownwater and blackwater. Sometimes also found on moist slopes, clearcuts, and wet roadsides.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting July-September.
IdentificationThis the prototypical wild-rye, with stems 2-3 (-4) feet tall, well-spaced leaves, and a terminal, erect inflorescence. The recent recognition of E. glabriflorus and E. macgregorii means that previous records of E. virginicus need to be double-checked for ID. From E. virginicus, E. glabriflorus and E. macgregorii are told by their wider inflorescences (including awns) being 2.2-4.5 cm wide vs. 0.7-2.2 cm wide in E. virginicus, and glume awns being 10-30 mm long (vs. 0-10 mm long in E. virginicus).
Taxonomic CommentsElymus glabriflorus and E. macgregorii have been split off; see FNA for treatments.

Ryegrasses or Wild-ryes (genus Elymus) are noted by their evenly spaced leaves and elongate, terminal inflorescence that recall cultivated rye or wheat. Each floret produces several long, skinny awns. Identification of some species requires a dissecting scope or at least a 10x handlens.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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