Achnatherum speciosum (Trin. & Rupr.) Barkworth
Desert Needlegrass, Desert Rice Grass, Spear Grass
Poaceae (Grass Family)
Synonym(s): Stipa speciosa
USDA Symbol: ACSP12
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 CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Yellow , Brown
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: 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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse Food: Seeds gathered and consumed by Mono Lake Paiute people.
Larval Host: The Grass Family is an essential larval food for most branded skippers and most of the satyrs.
PropagationDescription: Sow seed.
Seed Treatment: No pretreatment necessary.
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.
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 1218 - Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources (2006) Anderson, M. Kat
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Achnatherum speciosum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Achnatherum speciosum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Achnatherum speciosum
MetadataRecord Modified: 2022-10-31
Research By: TWC Staff