Annual Wheatgrass

Annual Wheatgrass, courtesy of Dr. Roger Banner

 Photo courtesy of Dr. Roger Banner, USU Extension

Common Name(s):

Annual Wheatgrass
Annual Crested Wheatgrass           

Scientific Name(s):

Eremopyrum triticeum (Gaertn.) Nevski.

Scientific Name Synonyms:

Agropyron prostratum (L.f.) P. Beauv.
Agropyron triticeum Gaertn.




Life Span: Annual               
Season: Cool      
Growth Characteristics:  Annual wheatgrass can be found growing alone or in small tufts, 5-16” tall. Stems are erect or bend at a node near the base. It starts growth in late fall or early spring, depending on moisture availability, and flowers in late spring much like the growth habit of cheatgrass.

 Seedhead: Stems have dense, fine hair at the base of the seedhead. Its seedheads closely resemble small crested wheatgrass seedheads and are compact spikes 1” long by ?” wide. Spikelets are ¼-?” long including awn tips and protrude from the rachis outward. Its glumes are thick, ?-¼” long, compressed from the sides, bag-shaped, and awn-tipped. Lemmas are slightly longer than the glumes, less thick, and awn-tipped. Seedheads break loose at the base of the rachis at maturity with the spike falling to the ground intact.

Leaves:Leaf blades are soft, flat, and ≤?” wide. The sheaths of stem leaves are open about ? their length and smooth to finely hairy. Leaves have small ligules and can have small auricles.

Ecological Adaptations:

Annual wheatgrass occurs in salt desert shrub, sagebrush, and juniper communities at elevations below 5,500’ where annual precipitation is 10”. It grows well on desert flats and lake bottoms, depressions, and drainages where runoff accumulates periodically and soils are clayey and saline. 

Soils: Often found in areas where runoff accumulates, clayey and saline soils.

Associated Species:  Associated species in Utah include mat saltbush, cuneate saltbush, halogeton, cheatgrass, crossflower, greasewood, Russian thistle, and globemallow among others.

Uses and Management:

 Annual wheatgrass is common in low areas of the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin. It provides nutritious seasonal forage for cattle, sheep, pronghorn, small mammals, and other wildlife (much like cheatgrass), but loses its appeal as forage as it completes its lifecycle and matures. Plant residue may accumulate and become a source of fine fuel and increasing the risk of summer fire.