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Loughmiller, Campbell and Lynn
Xerophyllum tenax (Pursh) Nutt.
Common beargrass, Western turkeybeard, Bear lily, Pine lily, Elk grass, Squaw grass, Beargrass, Turkeybeard
USDA Symbol: XETE
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Western turkeybeard or beargrass makes a fountain of curved, rigid, grass-like, evergreen leaves, to 3 ft. tall, which are attractive without flowers. The central flower stalk rises a foot or more above the leaves and bears a dense plume of hundreds of creamy-white flowers. At the top of a stout stalk that grows from a massive bunch of basal leaves bloom many tiny flowers in a dense, broad, white raceme.
Native Americans used the leaves to weave garments and baskets and ate the roasted rootstock.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf:
Green Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug
CA , ID , MT , OR , WA , WY Canada: AB
, BC Native Distribution:
Coast Ranges and interior mts. from n. CA to B.C.; also Rocky Mts. of MT, WY & ID Native Habitat:
Open woods, dry slopes & ridges below 6000 ft. USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Variable.
Conditions Comments: Beargrass is a pioneer species in some habitats and disappears after taller plants shade it out. It is not a reliable bloomer in a garden setting but the leaves are attractive. In nature, beargrass flowers profusely the season after a fire. After flowering, the leafy tuft supporting the flower stalk dies, but young offset clumps will have already formed to replace the old.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Rocky Mt. goats eat this plant in winter. The tough leaves, however, are unpalatable to all other grazers.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationDescription: Sow treated seeds. Seedlings take several years to flower. Offsets may be used as a faster source of new plants.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Soak in distilled water 24 hours and stratify 4 months in vermiculite. Remove germinating seeds at weekly interval. A burn treatment has also given good results.
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Santa Barbara, CANative Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
Recommended Species Lists
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Record Modified: 2010-10-04
Research By: TWC Staff