Caption: A field of wild beargrass in bloom at Glacier National Park in Montana on July 5, 2003.
Common name: Beargrass, turkeybeard, soap grass, Indian basket grass
Botanical name: Xerophyllum tenax
Virtues: Blooms in midsummer with a dramatic and unique tall flower. Grasslike foliage is pleasing when plant is not in bloom. A fire-resistant plant that sprouts back from its underground roots soon after a wildfire.
Flower: Hundreds of small individual flowers are held in a dense rounded cluster atop a thick stem to 6 feet tall. Creamy white. Midsummer.
Foliage: Grasslike leaves grow from a single point at the plant’s base, creating a fountain-like clump. Outer leaves can be 3 feet long; inner leaves are shorter. The leaves are thin but tough and rigid. American Indians in the Pacific Northwest used beargrass to make baskets and hats.
Habit: Evergreen clump 3+ feet tall and as wide.
Origin: Open woods and dry slopes of the interior Northwest and Mountain States.
Cultivation: Grow in full sun to partial shade, in well-drained soil. Tolerates drought. Slowly spreads by rhizomes (underground stem that can produce roots and stems) to form a colony. Cover with a winter mulch in Zone 5. USDA Zone 5–8.
Image rights: public domain
Read more Plants We Love
Download our January 2010 issue, which includes the special section "Plants We Love: 50 Great Natives, Award-Winning Plants and New Introductions"