Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Achnatherum speciosum

Desert needlegrass, Desert rice grass, Spear grass

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Achnatherum speciosum (Desert needlegrass)
Desert rice grass or spear grass is a 1-2 ft., cool-season bunchgrass with an attractive, plumy appearance. The dense seedheads bear spikelets with a distinctive bent or twisted awn extending far beyond the grain.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Leaf: Green
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AZ , CA , CO , NV , OR , UT
Native Distribution: CO & AZ to s. CA; also Mex.
Native Habitat: Plains; deserts; canyons; rocky hills; 2000-6000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Rocky or sandy soils.
Conditions Comments: Good for dry banks and paths. Very drought tolerant.


Use Food: Seeds gathered and consumed by Mono Lake Paiute people.
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: The Grass Family is an essential larval food for most branded skippers and most of the satyrs.

Last Update: 2008-10-18