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Xerophyllum tenax

About Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) Xerophyllum tenax is a North American species of plants in the corn lily family. It is known by several common names, including bear grass, squaw grass, soap grass, quip-quip, and Indian basket grass. Xerophyllum tenax has flowers with six tepals and six stamens borne in a terminal raceme. The plant can grow to 15-150 cm in height. It grows in bunches with the leaves wrapped around and extending from a small stem at ground level. The leaves are 30-100 cm long and 2-6 mm wide, dull olive green with toothed edges. The slightly fragrant white flowers emerge from a tall stalk that bolts from the base. When the flowers are in bloom they are tightly packed at the tip of the stalk like an upright club. The plant is found mostly in western North America from British Columbia south to California and east to Wyoming, in subalpine meadows and coastal mountains, and also on low ground in the California coastal fog belt as far south as Monterey County. It is common on the Olympic Peninsula and in the Cascades, northern Sierra Nevada and Rockies.

Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
0.49 - 5 ft (0.15 - 1.5 m)


Growth Rate

Summer Semi-Deciduous

Flower Color

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Open, dry rocky slopes

Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade

Elevation ?
83' - 14090'

Annual Precip. ?
15.0" - 169.0"

Summer Precip. ?
0.21" - 5.95"

Coldest Month ?
10.8° F - 49.6° F

Hottest Month ?
34.1° F - 71.8° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 22.38 vpd

Soil Description
Adaptable, especially after fire

Soil PH
4.0 - 6.5

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -15° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7, 15, 16, 17

Landscaping Information
Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Soak in distilled water 24 hrs. and stratify 4 mos. in vermiculite. Reove germinating seeds at weekly intervals (Smart and Minore 1977)

Common uses
Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Sometimes Available

Other Names
Common Names
Bear Grass, Common Beargrass, Quip-quip, Soap Grass, Squaw Grass

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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