Montana Outdoors

June 11, 2014

Beargrass and huckleberries

Filed under: Spring — Tags: , , , , — montucky @ 11:06 pm

Beargrass is beginning to bloom now in the western Montana high country,

Bear grass

Beargrass ~ Xerophyllum tenax

and then thinking of bears… As I sat eating my lunch along a trail the other day, enjoying the cool breeze that was sweeping up the mountain and the beauty of spring in the wild country, I watched dozens of bumble bees gathering nectar from and pollinating the huckleberry bushes that are now in bloom

Huckleberry blossoms

Huckleberry ~ Vaccinium membranaceum

and the thought occurred to me that in the spring of the year a bee which weighs about half a gram gets sustenance from the blossoms and at the same time pollinates the plants, then in the autumn of the year a bear which can weigh up to 1,700 pounds gets sustenance from the berries of those plants and spreads their seeds; what extremes in the annual cycle of a plant!


  1. Beautiful photos, Terry.
    Yes, it’s fascinating how the cycle spins in some plants…….from the smallest bee to the largest bear.

    That ‘beargrass’ looks interesting. Is the lower half just one stem?


    Comment by Vicki — June 11, 2014 @ 11:12 pm

    • The blossom rises from the plant, which looks like a huge clump of coarse grass, on a single stem which can get up to 6 feet tall.


      Comment by montucky — June 11, 2014 @ 11:15 pm

  2. Are these the red or the blue huckleberries? They look like they are probably red from the hints of colour I can see.
    Nice pics as always. I’ve never seen beargrass, or if I have, I didn’t recognize it.


    Comment by wordsfromanneli — June 12, 2014 @ 12:06 am

    • They are the blue ones, and are usually small in that area but very tasty.
      I hope you do get to see beargrass. It’s quite a sight in good years. This year they seem to be very sparse, or at least so where I’ve been. The USDA website shows their distribution includes British Columbia, but it doesn’t say which part. They like elevations of about 4000 feet of higher.


      Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 9:02 pm

      • In a good year, the blue ones are like big fat blueberries, I remember picking them one time and thinking that the bushes were so tall and thick and loaded in berries, that I expected a bear to come out of the bushes any second. It was a beary beary berry place.


        Comment by wordsfromanneli — June 12, 2014 @ 10:00 pm

        • They were that way last summer in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. I did bring back some and saw quite a bit of bear sign, but from Black bears fortunately. I’m not enamored with the Griz. It’s good to have a few hucks for decorating ice cream and for a pie or two, but I really love what you can do with chokecherries.


          Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 10:48 pm

          • I feel the same about grizzlies. Even the black bears seem to be getting more aggressive.


            Comment by wordsfromanneli — June 13, 2014 @ 8:12 am

            • That’s strange, too. There have been problems with black bears in Montana too. I haven’t seen any yet this spring, although I have seen sign. Haven’t been out that much though. There was a cub in my son’s yard today though. Made the TV news.


              Comment by montucky — June 13, 2014 @ 10:07 pm

              • I may as well add my news from today. My neighbour just phoned to warn me of a cougar his son had seen just down the road from here. Have to be careful with small dogs and cats when they’re around. Just what I didn’t need right now.


                Comment by wordsfromanneli — June 13, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

                • At lest you had a warning about the cat. Something I like about the winter: you can easily find out who was visiting during the night.


                  Comment by montucky — June 14, 2014 @ 10:22 pm

  3. Again great finding. None of them are not found in Finland!


    Comment by Sartenada — June 12, 2014 @ 12:54 am

  4. It’s great how nature has all the bases covered! The beargrass blossoms remind me of our white baneberry blossoms.


    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — June 12, 2014 @ 4:22 am

    • Nature consistently amazes me. It’s exciting here to get to see the mountains in their natural, old-growth state and I spend as much time in the Wilderness and roadless areas as possible. Time spent in complete fascination!


      Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 9:06 pm

  5. The beargrass is so beautiful. It has some of the same sweet fuzziness of a bear cub. And hooray for those berries. I went blackberry picking last night, and am going again tonight. There’s nothing quite so good as berries straight from the vine — tell those bees to get busy, for the bears’ sake and for yours!


    Comment by shoreacres — June 12, 2014 @ 6:04 am

    • With the heavy snow that we had last winter, there should be a bumper crop of huckleberries this fall which will be good for me because I plan to spend a lot of time in the places where they grow thick!


      Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

  6. My, that high air and spring has brought out the serious thinker in you! Enjoyed this reminder about the power of nature. And I certainly am enjoying your “out and about as usual” again. So glad you are doing so well. Lead on! hugs


    Comment by Beth — June 12, 2014 @ 7:24 am

    • Thanks Beth! The natural world is indeed awesome! It’s so good that we still have wild areas where one can go see the world as it has been for millions of years!


      Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 9:09 pm

  7. I always look forward to the bear grass,


    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — June 12, 2014 @ 8:07 am

  8. That is an extremely good point, and a fascinating thought! Those bees are very powerful! Love your photos.


    Comment by Jo Woolf — June 12, 2014 @ 10:11 am

    • One wouldn’t usually think that such small berries would be a very important food source for the huge bears, but a good berry crop lets them put on a large amount of fat to carry them through the winter.


      Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

  9. Wished I could have been on the trail eating lunch with you enjoying the sights. Take in the beauty and breathe in a lungful of that mountain air for us!


    Comment by Ron Mangels — June 12, 2014 @ 10:40 am

    • Wish you could have been there too, Ron! It’s an excellent time to start getting into the higher country. In elevations over about 6000 feet it is still early spring.


      Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 9:22 pm

  10. Intriguing bit of beargrass there…have never seen or heard of it before….and what a wonderful cycle or connection of life and the living in your western Montana. Nice images, Terry.


    Comment by seekraz — June 12, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

    • There are some photos of large areas of beargrass in this post from 2007. I know you would enjoy seeing it bloom in profusion.


      Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  11. I’ve never seen anything like that grass! Beautiful photo of it!


    Comment by Sue — June 12, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

    • Beargrass will decorate large expanses of forest in its good years. It’s bloom has about a 7 year cycle meaning that each plant blooms about once every seven years, but so many bloom at once some years that it’s overwhelming. I remember that 2002 was a great year for it and so was 2009, but 2007 was also pretty good.


      Comment by montucky — June 12, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

  12. Nature’s pretty cool. Sounds like there was a Master plan. I love when you show the beargrass every year…especially a big field of it.


    Comment by Candace — June 12, 2014 @ 10:48 pm

    • I haven’t yet seen a big area of them yet. Maybe it’s a little early; I hope it won’t be a bad year for them.


      Comment by montucky — June 13, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

  13. such lovely and sweet photos, truly a joy to see
    if you visit me…. you will see, bears eat other things….


    Comment by Tammie — June 14, 2014 @ 9:34 pm

    • Yes, bears and others. On the day I took these photos there was wolf scat on the trail.


      Comment by montucky — June 14, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

  14. I love, love, love beargrass! Great picture!


    Comment by themrshaddad — June 16, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

    • Thanks. I love the beargrass too. It should continue blooming for the rest of June at least a little higher up on the mountains. I will be looking forward to seeing large hillsides of it!


      Comment by montucky — June 16, 2014 @ 8:33 pm

  15. I love your high resolution, close range photos.


    Comment by Lewa — June 17, 2014 @ 7:44 am

  16. I missed this post or something … but reading your thoughts as you sat there added a beauty to this post beyond the wonderful images. I Love this …. the cycles of life and the symbiotic nature of it always intrigues and pleases me.


    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — June 20, 2014 @ 7:34 am

    • That intrigues me too, Teresa. I wish that I knew more about the inter-cinnectedness in nature. I see it and understand some, but the wilderness areas and the roadless areas represent the natural world as it has always been, (which is a real success story) and I wish I understood much more!


      Comment by montucky — June 20, 2014 @ 7:30 pm

  17. Beautiful plants…reminds me just a little bit of Wild Hyacinth.


    Comment by Watching Seasons — June 22, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

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