Bromus tectorum

Bromus grass is also known as rye brome, common chess and little sea oats. There are many types of bromus, but the common one in Washington is bromus tectorum. This easy grower tends to self-seed readily with those luscious seed heads and as a result can become invasive. One source did not recommend its use in rotation with grain crops or for landscaping unless the seeds are harvested. Fair enough warning. At a height of 24-36 inches, this grass has strong, somewhat hairy stems that are nicely arched at the top where 1⁄2” to 3⁄4”, nodding spikes of seeds dance and glitter, which makes a beautiful cut flower. I’m thinking a country wedding bouquet here.

This controversial grass is typically grown for its drought tolerance and seed heads for floral arrangements. These swaying seed heads are easy to harvest, simply cut the entire clump once they are full, but still green. However, in 2018, bromus tectorum was proposed as a Class C noxious weed, but did not make the list, so a warning tobuyers/sellers. In Island County: 2004 Whidbey Island, Ebey's Landing State Park; along beach sandy-gravelly soil, in gravel (WTU 355867); survey comments, B. tectorum is widespread. Many agricultural fields in Island County have dense patches. Large infestations present in central Whidbey Island area. Ebey's prairie, Smith prairie vicinities.

Perhaps that is why buyers marched on by this common Whidbey grass, but then relabeling as a native might have increased sales. Who knows? It’s all in the marketing, just remember to warn customers to clip those seed heads. Once the stems turn light tan, they can be cut back for another seasonal display. Or not.

M.P., RGC Member / Author