Sunday, August 6, 2017

Bear Grass with a Purpose

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

While hiking in the fire ravaged Mt. Adams area, I noticed these tall spires of white fluff.  They were everywhere.  Turns out this statuesque plant is not only lovely to look at, but it plays a vital role in the life of the Pacific Northwest.  Bear Grass (Xerophyllum tenax) is native to the area and a workhorse of a plant.

Native Americans used the leaves to weave garments and make baskets.  They ate the roasted rhizomes and boiled the roots for medicine.  Elk and deer graze on the flowers and grizzly bears cover their winter dens with the leaves.  (Thus, the name Bear Grass?)

Not only that, but as I witnessed during my hike, this plant is one of the first to pop up in areas consumed by wild fire.  It helps restore the soil, enabling other plants to grow again.  

Pretty important stuff, I'd say.

It flowers between June and September and its stout stalks can reach heights of six feet.  (Note to self:  Go to Glacier National Park next June to see fields and fields of these flowers.)  They are the most beautiful when they first bloom; their tiny flowers are fuller and whiter.

Bear Grass.  One of the most important wildflowers I have come across.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes Mother Nature gets it wrong, the images from your previous post are shocking, but it's good to see the Bear Grass growing again.