Calamagrostis stricta is a tall stoloniferous perennial grass that occurs in wet to moist areas and meadows on both sides of the Alaska Range, most commonly in boreal lowland habitats. This species has narrow purplish panicles and grows up to 1m tall from subterranean runners. The stem typically only has 2-4 nodes. Leaves are more or less involute, 5-30 cm long, smooth to scabrous, and narrow (2-5 mm). Ligules are membranous, 1-3.5 mm long with more or less entire margins. The inflorescence is a compact spike-like panicle, 5-15 cm long. The spikelets are 2-4.5 mm long, containing one bisexual flower. Glumes are 2-6 mm and narrow (less than 3 times long as broad) with an acute tip. Lemmas are slightly shorter than the glumes (2-4mm), with a short awn. The characteristic callus hairs are numerous and shorter than the lemma. The fruit is single-seeded, indehiscent and dry. This plant can be distinguished from other local Calamagrostis species by the long, narrow panicle, the callus hairs shorter than the lemma and the glumes that are less than 3 times as long as broad.
Calamagrostis stricta greens up in early summer (late May-June) and produces flowers in mid to late summer (July-August).
C. stricta is monoecious, with stamens and pistils in the same florets (bisexual). Flowers are wind pollinated. Seeds are wind and gravity dispersed. It also readily spreads vegetatively through stolons and is turf-forming.
C. stricta can be used for streambank stabilization and mining reclamation and various cultivars are used ornamentally.
Calamagrostis stricta is a circumpolar species with a widespread distribution that ranges across northern Eurasia to Alaska, through all Canadian provinces, Greenland, and south through much of the lower 48 states except is absent in the southeastern U.S. In Alaska, this species occurs primarily south of the Yukon River, with isolated stations to the north. In Denali C. stricta occurs in the boreal regions on both sides of the Alaska Range crest.
C. stricta is found in the park growing at elevations from 74 m to 1283 m with an average site elevation of 486 m. It appears to slightly prefer north-facing slopes and on average grew at higher elevations on north-facing versus south-facing slopes. It is found on a wide range of slope angles (flat to 28 degrees), but preferred flatter sites with an average angle of 3 degrees.