Read: further details in Agricultural Research.
Native Plants Scrutinized for
By Marcia Wood
April 11, 2000
From wide-open grasslands of Montana
to sagebrush-covered deserts of Nevada, a hardy native plant called Rimrock
Indian ricegrass can help revegetate sites damaged by wildfire, overgrazing, or
In the four years since USDA scientists
first began recommending Rimrock to restore native ecosystems and help hold
soil in place, seedgrowers in seven western states--Colorado, Idaho, Montana,
Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming--have produced Rimrock seed for sale.
Ricegrass gets its name from its stalks. When in bloom, they somewhat
resemble those of a rice plant. The plump seeds that form on Rimrock stalks
make an excellent food for game birds like valley quail or for songbirds such
as green-tailed towhee.
What's more, Rimrock retains mature seed longer than many other Indian
ricegrasses--even in high winds and heavy rains, according to plant geneticist
Thomas A. Jones of the ARS Forage
and Range Research Laboratory, Logan, Utah.
Discovering that trait in Rimrock, according to Jones, was ARS' most
important contribution to the collaborative research on this plant. Because
Rimrock seed has a better chance of staying on the plant until harvest--instead
of dropping to the ground--mechanical harvesting of the seed is easier and less
expensive. That lowers the cost of producing seed and helps open the door to
wider use of Indian ricegrass for rangeland repair.
Rimrock was released jointly by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service at
Bridger, Mont., the agricultural experiment stations of Montana and Wyoming,
ARS studies of Rimrock and two other
rugged native plants--the pink-to-purple flowered Timp Utah sweetvetch and the
golden-plumed Sand Hollow squirreltail, are described in the agency's Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the chief research branch of USDA.
Scientific contact: Thomas A. Jones, ARS Forage and
Range Research Laboratory, Logan, Utah; phone (435) 797-3082, fax (435)