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Achnatherum speciosum

Achnatherum speciosum (Trin. & Rupr.) Barkworth

Desert Needlegrass, Desert Rice Grass, Spear Grass

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Stipa speciosa

USDA Symbol: ACSP12

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

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.


From the Image Gallery

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Plant Characteristics

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

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow , Brown
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun


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.


Description: 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 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
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 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 resources

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


Record Modified: 2022-10-31
Research By: TWC Staff

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