Pictured from left to right: Oryzopsis asperifolia (2 photos) and Oryzopsis racemosa


This genus has 1-flowered awned spikelets with broad glumes and awned lemmas that are about as long as the glumes. Lemmas are somewhat hardened at maturity. Plants are cespitose perennials.

There are 4 species in MN; 4 are native.

Common species:
Oryzopsis asperifolia (oar ee zop' sis ass per ih fo' lee ah)

  • Synonyms: None
  • Common names: rough-leaved rice grass, winter grass
  • Origin and habitat: Native; dry hardwood or conifer forests
  • Identifying characters: Basal leaves are often as long as the whole plant, while the stem leaves produce progressively shorter blades. Leaf apices become almost awn-like and the ligules are less than 1 mm long. Inflorescences are slender, almost spike-like panicles, 3-7 cm long with large (6-8.5 mm) spikelets. Lemmas are hardened with twisted long (6-14 mm) awns.
  • Comments: Rough-leaved rice grass is an early flowering plant easily visible on spring forest floors, before most other plants produce much growth. The basal cluster of long green leaf blades surrounding the flowering stems are from the previous year. New leaves are formed in mid-summer. Frederick Pursh (identifier of the Lewis and Clark plants) reported that this species produces a fine tasting flour (Pursh, F., 1814, Fl. Amer. Sept. 1: 60). Its shallow weak root system apparently prevents it from being cultivated.


Additional species in Minnesota:

O. hymenoides
O. pungens
O. racemosa

Copyright 2002, A.F. Cholewa, J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota / No portion of this guide may be duplicated without written permission of author.