Western Wheatgrass

Scientifc Name

Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) A. Love


Western Wheatgrass is a cool-season, native, perennial grass that has coarse blue-green leaves and ranges in height from 1 to 2 feet. Western Wheatgrass can tolerate many stressful environments including saline and saline-sodic soils, drought, and flooding.  It is very cold hardy, shade tolerant, and grazing resistant.  Western Wheatgrass greens up in March or April, matures in August, and goes dormant in early winter.  In native areas it is typically found with blue grama, buffalograss, needlegrasses, rough fescue, and blue junegrass.  Western Wheatgrass is moderately palatable prior to maturity to many classes of wildlife and livestock.

Taxonomy of Western Wheatgrass

 Kingdom      Plantae
 Subkingdom   Tracheobionta
 Superdivision    Spermatophyta
 Division   Magnoliophyta
 Class    Lillosida
 Subclass     Commelinidae
 Order   Cyperales
 Family     Poaceae
 Genus    Pascopyrum
 Species  Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) A. Love

Plant Characteristics of Western Wheatgrass

 Height  12 to 24 inches
 Growth habit  sod forming with rhizomes
 Bloom period  mid summer
 Sun requirement  full sun to partial shade
 Leaf foilage color  blue-green
 Seeds per pound  115,000
 Minimum soil temperature for germination:  50 ºF
 Soil pH range  4.5 to 9.0
 Planting Rate  1 PLS lb/2000 sq ft or 10 to 15 PLS lb/acre
 Planting Depth  ½ to ¾ inch
 Planting season  fall

Uses of Western Wheatgrass

Erosion Control

Western Wheatgrass is commonly used in conservation applications and land reclamation due its high stress tolerance and sod-forming ability.  It is one of the most common components of native grass mixes.


Western Wheatgrass is moderately palatable to many classes of livestock. Cattle tend to prefer it more so than sheep.  Nitrogen fertilization will increase forage yield and palatability.


Western Wheatgrass can be used in full sun and partial shaded areas of the landscape.  It is relatively maintenance free since its sod-forming characteristic crowds out most weeds once establish.

Commercially Available Cultivars of Western Wheatgrass


1970, cooperatively released by Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, KS, Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station, and Plant Science Research Division, ARS.


1973, cooperatively by SCS-Los Lunas, NM, Colorado Agricultural Experminet Station, and New Mexico State Highway Department.


1972, cooperatively by the Plant Materials Center, SCS, Bridger, ID, and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station.)

8 days after planting

18 days after planting                                                                       28 days after planting

34 days after planting                                                                     65 days after planting