FACT SHEET: Indian Ricegrass

click picture for larger version

Common Name: Indian Ricegrass
Scientific Name: Oryzopsis hymenoides
Synonyms: Stipa hymenoides
Family: Grass Family (Poaceae)
Distribution: western North America
Habitat: desert and foothill habitats, usually in sandy soil
Habit: perennial bunchgrass
Height: to 1-2'
Spread: 0.5-1'
Foliage Color: bright green
Leaves: curling, threadlike grass leaves, mainly toward the base of the plant
Flower Color: silver and dark brown, turning straw-colored
Flower Form: borne singly at the tips of branches, the inflorescence open and intricately branched
Flowering Season: spring to early summer

Cultural Requirements
: Prefers full sun and well-drained soils. Fully cold-hardy. Drought hardy (i.e., needs no supplemental water after establishment on the Wasatch Front), and intolerant of overwatering.

Indian ricegrass is relatively difficult to get from direct fall-seeding along the Wasatch Front, possibly because of our heavy soils. It seems to grow OK in somewhat heavier soils once established. Its seeds are dormant and require short chilling (2-4 wk), scarifying (roughing up with sandpaper usually works), or both in order to germinate. The plants grow quickly in container culture, but do not compete well with other perennial grasses, and should be given lots of room.

Uses and Notes of Interest: This well-behaved bunchgrass is a fine addition to any xeriscape, and will grow quite large given the elbow room. The open, spangled appearance when in flower or fruit is very attractive, especially in backlight. Indain ricegrass was named the Utah state grass a few years ago. It was an important grain crop for native peoples of the Southwest.