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Secale cereale - L.

Common Name Rye, Cereal rye
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Not known in a truly wild situation.
Range W. Asia? Original habitat is obscure.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Secale cereale Rye, Cereal rye

Secale cereale Rye, Cereal rye


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Secale cereale is a ANNUAL growing to 1.8 m (6ft) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to July, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.



 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Coffee;  Oil;  Sweetener.

Seed - cooked[2, 13, 34, 46]. A common cereal, it is used especially in N. Europe to make bread[183]. The seed contains about 13% protein[61]. The grain also contains some gluten, though not as much as wheat, so it makes a heavier bread than wheat. It can also be used to make cakes etc. The seed can be sprouted and added to salads[183]. A nutritional analysis is available[218]. Malt, a sweet substance produced by germinating the seed, is extracted from the roasted germinated seed and used as a sweetening agent and in making beer etc[13]. The roasted (ungerminated) seed is used as a coffee substitute[46, 183].

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Seed (Dry weight)
  • 380 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 13.2g; Fat: 2.5g; Carbohydrate: 82.5g; Fibre: 2.2g; Ash: 2g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 44mg; Phosphorus: 400mg; Iron: 4mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 4mg; Potassium: 524mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.4mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.24mg; Niacin: 1.8mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes: The figures given here are the median of a range given in the report.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Cancer;  Laxative;  Poultice.

The seed is made into a poultice and applied to tumours[218]. The seed is also an effective laxative due to its fibrous seed coat[269].

Other Uses

Biomass;  Green manure;  Oil;  Soil stabilization;  Thatching.

The straw is used as a fuel or as a biomass in industry[141]. It is quite strong[100] and can also be used in thatching, for paper making, weaving mats and hats etc[13, 34, 46, 61, 171]. Other uses for the straw include as a packing material for nursery stock, bricks and tiles, for bedding, archery targets, and mushroom compost[269]. The plant is a good green manure crop. It is fast growing with an extensive and deep root system[46]. It is especially useful if sown in late autumn. Its growth over the winter will prevent soil erosion and the leaching of nutrients from the soil, it can then be incorporated into the soil in the spring[171]. The extensive root system also makes this a good plant to use for soil stabilization, especially on sandy soils[171].

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils but prefers a well-drained light soil in a sunny position[1, 132]. It thrives on infertile, submarginal areas and is renouned for its ability to grow on sandy soils[269]. Established plants are drought tolerant[1]. The plant is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation in the range of of 22 to 176cm, an annual temperature in the range of of 4.3 to 21.3°C and a pH of 4.5 to 8.2[269]. Rye is a widely cultivated temperate zone cereal crop. It is able to withstand severe climatic conditions and can be grown much further north and at higher altitudes than wheat[13, 34, 57]. Average yields vary widely from country to country, the world average is around 1.6 tonnes per hectare with yields of almost 7 tonnes per hectare achieved in Norway[269]. There are many named varieties[183]. Rye is a rather variable species and botanists have divided it into a number of sub-species, all of which could be of value in breeding programmes. These sub-species are briefly listed below:- S. cereale afghanicum (Vavilov.)K.Hammer. Native to the Caucasus, western Asia and India. S. cereale ancestrale Zhuk. Native to western Asia. S. cereale dighoricum Vavilov. Native to the Caucasus and eastern europe. S. cereale segetale Zhuk. Native to temperate Asia. Rye grows well with cornflowers and pansies[18, 20], though it inhibits the growth of poppies and couch grass[18, 20].


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Seed - sow March or October in situ and only just cover the seed. Germination should take place within 2 weeks.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Botanical References

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Readers comment

Etienne Van Rattingen   Thu Apr 22 08:50:12 2004

hepatitis, icterus, cirrhosus, insufficientis, after alcoholisme, medical intoxication, psoriasis.

jeremiah murray   Fri Jun 9 2006

ATTRA publications talk of Ryes alleopathic properties in weed prevention.

Sun Liying   Sun Nov 9 2008

Dear Dr., Would you mind if I ask some seeds. I am working on plant disease. Maybe the secale cereale is a good material for studying plant tolerance in adversity. thanks alot.

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