Culms 15-45 cm, erect to decumbent. Blades usually puberulent abaxially, sometimes glabrous. Spikes 4-15 cm, exserted or partly included, usually with 2 spikelets per node. Spikelets with (1)2-3(4) fertile florets, lowest 1-2 florets sterile and glumelike. Glume awns 35-85 mm, often split into 2, sometimes 3, unequal divisions; lemma awns 25-75 mm, usually exceeded by those of the glumes; paleas with the veins extending as bristles.
Elymus elymoides subsp. elymoides grows in desert and shrub-steppe areas of western North America, extending to the western edge of the Great Plains and, as an adventive, occasionally further east. It is frequently associated with disturbed sites.