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Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Achnatherum hymenoides

Achnatherum hymenoides (Roem. & Schult.) Barkworth

Indian Ricegrass, Indian Millet, Sandgrass

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Eriocoma cuspidata, Oryzopsis hymenoides, Stipa hymenoides


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Indian rice grass is a 1-2 ft., perennial bunchgrass. The sage-green, wiry foliage and ivory-colored seedheads give the grass an overall light, airy appearance. Foliage turns tan when dormant.

This beautiful grass often dominates sand dunes. It is a highly palatable species for many animals including livestock.


From the Image Gallery

6 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Leaf Margin: Entire
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AR , AZ , CA , CO , ID , KS , MN , MO , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , OK , OR , SD , TX , UT , WA , WI , WY
Canada: BC
Native Distribution: E. of the Cascades from B.C. to CA, e. to Man., MN, w. KS, w. TX & n. Mex.
Native Habitat: Dry grasslands; deserts

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Deep, sandy or rocky soils.
Conditions Comments: Indian ricegrass is very drought tolerant and useful in land reclamation projects. Remove old clumps to allow self-sown seedlings room to develop. This grass can be mowed to 8 in. in early fall. Achnatherum hymenoides is a highly drought tolerant native bunchgrass. The seed has a hard coat that prolongs dormancy, taking up to two years for an area that has been seeded to become fully established.


Use Ornamental: Indian ricegrass produces graceful inflorescence, 1 to 3 ft high & is used as an ornamental bunching grass in the landscape.
Use Wildlife: Wildlife forage. Seeds are sought by birds and small mammals.
Use Food: The seeds were ground for flour, mixed with water and cooked into a mush by the Montana Indians, Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Paiute, and others.
Use Other: Palatable for most grazing animals, can sustain relatively high grazing pressure if it is allowed to produce enough seed for reproduction.Indian ricegrass decreases under grazing because grazing removes the seeds, and therefore plants are not replaced.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Skippers


Description: Sow seeds 1-2 in. deep. Increase by division in early spring or fall.
Seed Treatment: Seeds are dormant without pretreatment. Seeds must be scarified with H2SO4 to obtain germination. Mechanical scarification is also useful.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Plants to stop erosion in Arizona
January 17, 2009
I'm looking for a plant to stop erosion; I have big wash outs that are starting to erode my yard so I guess I'm looking for deep rooting plants. I live south of Tucson, Arizona. If you can advise me...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for erosion control
September 23, 2008
I live in southern california. What is the best groundcover to plant on a slope to prevent erosion?
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Additional resources

USDA: Find Achnatherum hymenoides in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Achnatherum hymenoides in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Achnatherum hymenoides


Record Modified: 2009-04-18
Research By: BJG, MWJ

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