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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
Synonym(s): Helonias tenax
USDA Symbol: XETE
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
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
, 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.
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
National Wetland Indicator Status
|Status:|| FACU |
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
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
Record Last Modified: 2010-10-04
Research By: TWC Staff