Achnatherum richardsonii grows in open woodlands and grasslands,often on sand or gravel, from the Yukon Territory to Washington and Manitoba, and south in the Rocky Mountains through Montana and Wyoming to western South Dakota and northern Colorado. Its elevation range is 1000-3100 m. It is readily recognized by its combination of flexuous panicle branches, drooping spikelets, and straight distal awn segments. Scagel and Maze (1984) concluded that putative hybrids between A. richardsonii and A. nelsonii subsp. dorei were merely large plants of subsp. dorei that varied in the direction of A. richardsonii.