Bear-Grass is the only evergreen member of the lily family. Its flowering stems grow from off-shoot plants growing at the base of each “grassy” clump and appear at each plant every five to ten years. The flowers are large (approximately 3” X 4”), blooming at the tops of stalks that are around four and a half feet tall. The genus name comes from the Greek word xeros meaning “dry,” and phyllon meaning “leaf” and the species name tenax means “holding fast”, referring to the tough pliable leaves which were used by the indigenous people to make ornamental baskets. The plant is poisonous although some think that bears eat the fleshy leaf bases in the spring. I’ve never seen bears eat it, but I have seen grassy bases that have been severely disturbed in the spring. The plant is native to six of the far western states in the U.S. and the two western provinces of Canada and in this area usually likes elevations over about 5,000 feet.
You can find a wealth of information on them here .
Today, after 6 days of rain, I decided it was time to get out a bit and scout for a place to cut firewood for next winter. I chose the Siegel Creek drainage and hoped that the last snow drifts on the high road would be small enough to let me get to the divide. It was a little surprising to see that the road was clear, and I drove the Jeep another 5 miles past the divide, 14 miles (and a mile higher in elevation) after leaving the highway. At about 7,000 feet there was a pretty good snow storm going on and the heater in the Jeep felt good. A lot of blown down trees showed that winter was not kind to the mountain and the rocks on the road made me happy that I had spent an extra couple hundred dollars for extra good tires last winter, but the miles of green were very pretty and the entire trip was quite refreshing.
The whole plant is astringent, salve and has agents that check bleeding by contracting blood vessels. Herbalists have used geranium roots to stop bleeding and to treat sores and chapped lips. It was used medicinally by the Blackfoot Indians among others. They used an infusion from this plant to treat diarrhea and gastric upset and urinary irritations. A gargle was used in the treatment of sore throats. The root of this plant is astringent and was dried and powdered and used by Native Americans to stop external bleeding. An infusion of the leaves or the roots has been used as a wash for sore eyes.
These have been blooming for quite some time already, but this one was growing in the deep shade of the Spring Creek canyon. I think I broke all of the usual rules of correct exposure, but it worked and the photo is what I wanted.