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Xerophyllum tenax (Pursh) Nutt.

Bear grass, Indian basket grass, soap grass, squaw grass,

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassLiliopsidaMonocots (plants with a single seed leaf); includes the lily family
SubclassLiliidaeIncludes lilies, orchids, and many others
OrderLilialesIncludes lilies, tulips, trilliums, greenbriars, and others
FamilyMelanthiaceaeTrillium family
GenusXerophyllumWith dry leaves, alluding to the tough, persistent leaves
SpeciestenaxGripping, tenacious or sticky in one sense, and firm, persistant or stubborn in another, from teneo or tenere, “to hold”

About plant names...

Bear grass is a native of western North America. It is not a grass, but a member of the Lily family.

Identification: These plants typically grow in groups, to heights of five feet. Leaves are mostly at the base, olive-colored, with toothed edges, up to 3′ (91 cm) long and narrow (⅛-¼″ (3.2-6.3 mm)). Leaves are tough and wiry. Tightly bunched cream-colored flowers on tall stalks are distinctive. Often occurs near alpine larch and whitebark pine. Fruits are less than ½″ (1.3 cm) long, with three lobes.

Xerophyllum tenax (bear grass, Indian basket grass, soap grass, squaw grass, )

Bear Grass in Glacier National Park, MT. National Parks Service photo.

Online References:

Blue Planet Biomes

Montana Plant Life


Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

The USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database

Helonias tenax Pursh


Xerophyllum tenax description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Xerophyllum tenax (bear grass, Indian basket grass, soap grass, squaw grass, )

11/27/2009 · Whitefish, Mon­tana · By Constance B. Kent


About this map...