Bear Grass

Carithers Flowers Design Favorite

Bear grass, Xerophyllum tenax , is a grass-like perennial that actually belongs to the lily family. Other common names for bear grass include squaw grass, soap grass, quip-quip, and Indian basket grass. It can grow 15-150 cm in height and grows in bunches. Its grass-like leaves are olive-colored which grow from the base of the stem and look like a fan. The flowers of bear grass grow on a stalk that can be six feet tall, with many creamy white flowers resembling a vanilla ice cream cone! The flowers are saucer-shaped and have a sweet aroma.

Bear grass is found in open forests and meadows at sub and low alpine elevations in the western United States, and from British Columbia to California to Wyoming. It is commonly found growing under alpine larch and white bark pine trees. Bear grass is important ecologically since it is a fire resistant species. The plant thrives with periodic burns and is often the first plant to sprout after a forest fire. Native Americans in British Columbia, Oregon and Washington state have traditionally made baskets out of the stems and roots of bear grass. When dried in the sun, bear grass turns a creamy white. Combined with materials of other colors, beautiful designs are woven into the baskets.

Growing Recommendations - Bear Grass

If you have bear grass remember that you can water bear grass too much. Early in the spring time they may rot, especially if they suffered freezing damage if they are too wet. Once they begin their seasonal growth they can handle a lot of water, in truly well-drained soil. Don't feed them any concentrated fertilizer product, but use only a little top-dressing with compost, perhaps mixed with an acid mulch, like tree needles.

Photos of Bear Grass

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