Monday, August 6, 2007

Great Basin Wild Rye

The sod farm down the road has finished harvesting their Great Basin wild rye. The tall green leaves and narrow golden seed heads first gave way to windrows of mown rye, then after the combine followed the windrows, to hay. The sod farm grows the rye for the seed, which is used in native plant mixtures. When I first heard that, I was sceptical - I had never noticed it, so it couldn't be "native", could it? At least not around here. Either I have become more attuned to it or the farm has sold a ton of seed mix, because now I see it in ditches along lots of local roads.

But it looks like it is native: According to Plants of the Rocky Mountains, Great Basin or giant wild rye grows from British Columbia and Alberta to New Mexico - right across Montana. Wild rye seeds were used by some Indians for food; according to other sources, the plant is eaten by animals in the winter. More recently, it has become a favorite plant for xeric landscapers for its drought-resistance and its dramatic form. That drought resistance also makes it good for seed mixes for roads and reclamation projects - hence the sod farm down the road.

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