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Plants We Love: Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax)

Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) has grasslike leaves and dramatic spherical summer flowers. If you like alliums, you'll like beargrass.
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Caption: A field of wild beargrass in bloom at Glacier National Park in Montana on July 5, 2003.

Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax)

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.

Season: Summer.

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

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