Achnatherum hendersonii grows in dry, rocky, shallow soil, in sagebrush or ponderosa pine associations. It is known from only three counties: Yakima and Kittitas counties, Washington, and Crook County, Oregon. Maze (1981) noted that, at one site, A. hendersonii was restricted to areas subject to frost heaving, although under cultivation, it can grow without such disturbance. He hypothesized that its survival in such sites is attributable to a competitive advantage gained by the structure of its root system. Unlike Poa secunda, which grew in the surrounding, undisturbed areas, the outer cortex and epidermis of the roots of A. hendersonii form a sheath around the stele and inner cortex. When the roots are pulled, this sheath slips and breaks but the internal structures remain intact. In Poa secunda, the outer part of the root is attached to the central core and, when the roots are pulled, they break. Achnatherum hendersonii also differs from P. secunda in having relatively few (9-12), evenly distributed roots that extend to 30 cm.