It is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, where it is widespread in scrub, woodland, grassland, and plateau habitat. It is tolerant of arid environments such as desert floors, and it is the dominant grass in some desert scrub regions. It is a bushy, clumping perennial grass producing coarse, erect stems reaching a meter in maximum height. The clumpy form of the grass helps it stabilize loose and blowing sand when it grows in desert dune habitat. The stems have nodes which are lined with long, sometimes curly hairs. The stems have nodes which are lined with long, sometimes curly hairs. The flower cluster is a series of hairy or brush like rectangular spike-lets. The grass produces relatively little viable seed and spreads mostly via its tillers and sometimes via rhizome. This grass acts as a nurse plant to seedlings of other species, such as cholla and barrel cactus, in turn receiving protection from herbivory by growing next to the spiny plants.