Common wheatgrass

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Elymus scaber

CATEGORY: C3 perennial


  • Loosely tufted, cool season, short-lived perennial to 1m tall
  • Leaves typically have a half twist; leaf sheaths are hairy and auricles are present
  • Flag leaf (leaf directly below the seed head) is long and sticks out at a right angle
  • Seedhead is a narrow spike to 25cm long; spikelets (not/little overlapping) with many awned florets; awns are straight when young and curved when mature
  • Flowers late winter to early summer


  • Is usually a minor component in open or shaded pastures
  • Grows on most soil types; frost and shade tolerant; moderately drought tolerant


  • Moderate to high grazing value
  • Digestibility ranges from 63-90 %
  • Crude protein 10-36%


  • Produces high quality, palatable green feed in the cooler months on fertile soils in moister areas
  • On shallower soils and drier western areas, it tend to have harsher leaves and is of lesser value
  • Generally only a short lived plant, but can recruit well from seed if needed
  • Growth is better under increased soil fertility and increased grazing pressure (if not selective)
  • Often preferentially grazed, but is avoided after it runs to head in spring
  • Rotational grazing to reduce selective grazing and providing strategic rests in spring to allow flowering and seed set will aid persistence
  • Seed can be direct drilled at 5-20mm deep using a cone seeder in autumn


  • Soft brome (Bromus spp.) leaves are very hairy
  • Wallaby grass (Austrodanthonia spp.) and weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides) do not have twisted leaves

(Young plant: L McWhirter)

Further information

See also 'Grassed up' - Common wheatgrass.