The correct current name (2016) for this species is somewhat confusing. In this database, we first called it Achnatherum hymenoides (Roem. & Schult.) Barkworth, then some authorities changed it to Oryzopsis hymenoides (Roem. & Schult.) Ricker ex Piper, and now the Kew 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families' is recognizing Eriocoma hymenoides. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with the Kew database, and both of the previous names are still being used by various authorities. We have decided to follow Kew, though cannot be sure that the name will not revert to one of the earlier names[
Achnatherum hymenoides (Roem. & Schult.) Barkworth
Eriocoma cuspidata Nutt.
Eriocoma membranacea (Vasey) Beal
Fendleria rhynchelytroides Steud.
Milium cuspidatum (Nutt.) Spreng.
Oryzopsis cuspidata (Nutt.) Benth. ex Vasey
Oryzopsis hymenoides (Roem. & Schult.) Ricker ex Piper
Oryzopsis membranacea Vasey
Stipa hymenoides Roem. & Schult.
Stipa membranacea Pursh
Urachne lanata Trin.
Common Name: Indian Millet
Eriocoma hymenoides is a perennial, clump-forming grass, producing a tight cluster of erect culms 30 - 70cm long.[
Although the seeds are small, they provided an important food for the native north Americans, and the plant has been the subject of research to see if it can be improved to become a viable perennial seed crop in sub-arid areas. The plant also has potential for protecting and improving the fragile soils of these areas.
Western N. America - British Columbia to Manitoba, south to Texas, California and Mexico.
Sandy prairies and rocky slopes[
]. Generally found in dry, well-drained soils, in association with a range of plants[
]. Dry foothills, rocky valley or upper slopes, plains, and ridges at elevations from 1,000 - 2900 metres[
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Succeeds in any moderately fertile moisture retentive soil in full sun[
]. The plant is moderately tolerant of both alkali soils and salt, and is adapted to soils of low fertility. It is particularly well adapted to sand and attains its greatest abundance on loose sandy soils where it forms almost pure stand. It can succeed on a range of soils from coarse sand to heavy clay and is also found on shallow shale soils. The plant has deep, fibrous, extensive roots and is one of the most drought tolerant of the native range grasses of N. America[
Currently (1992) being tested for its potential as a perennial cereal for sandy soils in dry regions[
This plants roots are often surrounded by a rhizosheath that harbors nitrogen-fixing organisms[
]. These organisms probably contribute to the species' success as a colonizer[
Seed - raw, cooked or ground into a meal and used in making bread etc, gruel and as a thickener in soups[
]. The seed is rather small but when fully ripe it falls readily from the plant and is fairly easy to harvest[
]. Another report says that the seed is rather large[
], but this has not been our experience[
]. The seeds were parched over the flames of a fire in order to remove the hairs[
]. A pleasant taste and very nutritious[
], it contains about 6% sugars and 20% starch[
]. Before corn was introduced to the area, this seed was at one time a staple food for some native North American tribes[
The plant is well-suited for surface erosion control and desert revegetation, although it is not highly effective in controlling sand movement. Certain native ecotypes exhibit desirable characteristics such as drought and salinity tolerance. However, the plant can be difficult to establish. It can be useful in the reclamation of many arid and semiarid areas in the western United States - typical sites include those in which vegetation has been removed due to surface mining, construction activity, brush control, heavy grazing, or fire. It can be used for revegetating degraded rangelands in areas of low precipitation and has naturally revegetated overgrazed ranges in parts of Utah. Several cultivars have been developed for use in restoration work on the prairies[
Seed - sow spring in situ[
We have had better results from sowing the seed in a greenhouse. Only just cover the seed and it should germinate freely within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer[
Seed retains viability for at least 14 years when stored in a cool, dry conditions. Approximately 38% of the seed germinated after 20 years of storage[
Division in spring. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.