Eriocoma hymenoides

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Indian ricegrass
Indian ricegrass growing in cryptobiotic crust at White Sands National Park
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Pooideae
Genus: Eriocoma
E. hymenoides
Binomial name
Eriocoma hymenoides
(Roem. & Schult.) Rydb.
  • Oryzopsis hymenoides Ricker ex Piper
  • Stipa hymenoides Roem. & Schult.[1](basionym)[2]
  • Eriocoma cuspidata Nutt.[1][3]
  • Oryzopsis cuspidata (Nutt.) Benth. ex Vasey[4]
  • Achnatherum hymenoides (Roem. & Schult.) Barkworth[1][5]
  • Eriocoma membranacea (Pursh) Beal 1896 not Steud. 1840
  • Fendleria rhynchelytroides Steud.
  • Milium cuspidatum (Nutt.) Spreng.
  • Oryzopsis membranacea (Pursh) Vasey
  • Stipa membranacea Pursh
  • Urachne lanata Trin.

Eriocoma hymenoides (common names: Indian ricegrass and sand rice grass) is a cool-season, perennial bunchgrass. It is native to western North America.


In the wild, Eriocoma hymenoides typically grows 10 to 61 centimetres (4 to 24 inches) tall and 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 in) wide.[7] It has narrow, rolled leaf blades.[8][9]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Eriocoma hymenoides is native to western North America east of the Cascades from British Columbia and Alberta south to southern California, northeastern Mexico, and Texas.

It grows in a variety of habitats from desert scrub to ponderosa pine forests. It can live in sandy to clayey textured soils.[7] It can stabilize shifting sand.[10]


Indian ricegrass is an important food for wild grazers such as bison, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, pronghorns, and jackrabbits. For some of these species, it is especially vital in late winter, as it produces green shoots earlier than other grasses. The seeds are heavily consumed by many rodents and birds. Seed caching rodents may enhance seedling survival and long-term survival of the plant.

Indian ricegrass is preferentially consumed by cattle and is an early casualty of overgrazing. It has been eliminated from many sites throughout its range.


In the past, the grass was a staple food of Native Americans, especially when the maize crop failed, and for non-agricultural tribes. Seed of the ricegrass was gathered and ground into meal or flour and made into bread. Since 2000, the ricegrass has been cultivated in Montana and marketed under the trade name Montina as a gluten-free grain.[11] The Zuni people used the ground seeds as a staple before the availability of corn.[12][13]

In culture[edit]

It was officially recognized as the Nevada state grass in 1977,[14][15] and as the Utah state grass in 1990.[16][17]


  1. ^ a b c "PLANTS Profile for Achnatherum hymenoides". USDA, NRCS. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  2. ^ Syst. Veg., ed. 15 bis [Roemer & Schultes] 2: 339. 1817 [Nov 1817] "Plant Name Details for Stipa hymenoides". IPNI. Retrieved 2 December 2009. basionym of Poaceae Achnatherum hymenoides
  3. ^ Gen. N. Amer. Pl. [Nuttall]. 1: 40. 1818 [14 Jul 1818] "Plant Name Details for Eriocoma cuspidata". IPNI. Retrieved 2 December 2009. Notes: = Oryzopsis cuspidata
  4. ^ Dept. Agric. Special Rep. 63: 23. 1883 "Plant Name Details for Oryzopsis cuspidata". IPNI. Retrieved 2 December 2009. nomenclatural synonym: Poaceae Eriocoma cuspidata Nutt.
  5. ^ Phytologia 74(1): 7 (1993) "Plant Name Details for Achnatherum hymenoides". IPNI. Retrieved 2 December 2009. Basionym: Stipa hymenoides
  6. ^ "Eriocoma hymenoides". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2022. Retrieved 15 September 2022.
  7. ^ a b Tirmenstein, D. 1999. Achnatherum hymenoides. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Retrieved on 2009-04-24.
  8. ^ Stubbendick, James (2017). North American Wildland Plants, third ed. University of Nebraska Press. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-8032-9965-8.
  9. ^ Mojave Desert Wildflowers, Pam MacKay, 2nd Ed., p. 287
  10. ^ Fagan, Damian (2012). Canyon Country Wildflowers, 2nd ed., Morris Bush Publishing in cooperation with Canyonlands Natural History Association, ISBN 978-0-7627-7013-7, p. 151.
  11. ^ "The Montina Story". Amazing Grains. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
  12. ^ Stevenson, Matilda Coxe 1915 Ethnobotany of the Zuni Indians. SI-BAE Annual Report #30 (p.67)
  13. ^ Castetter, Edward F. 1935 Ethnobiological Studies in the American Southwest I. Uncultivated Native Plants Used as Sources of Food. University of New Mexico Bulletin 4(1):1-44 (p. 27)
  14. ^ Nevada Revised Statutes, Chapter 235 Section 055. Retrieved on 2008-03-27
  15. ^ Nevada Facts - State grass Archived 2015-05-05 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
  16. ^ Utah Code Section 63-13-5.5. State symbols. Archived 2004-12-11 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
  17. ^ Utah State Symbols - Indian Ricegrass Archived 2012-09-04 at the Wayback Machine Pioneer - Utah's Online Library. Retrieved on 2010-06-29