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.
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