Western Bear Grass
Xerophyllum tenax (Pursh) Nutt.

Collected along the Lolo Trail between Lolo Creek and Eldorado Creek near the mouth of Lunch Creek, Idaho Co., Idaho, on 15 Jun 1806.   (Source)

Bear-grass is an herbaceous perennial that grows in clumps of basal leaves reaching 1.5 m tall. The leaves are grass-like, but tough and evergreen, with fine teeth on the margins. The stems bear much shorter, bract-like leaves. The tiny white flowers are borne in showy terminal clusters. Bear-grass is common in clearings, meadows, and open to fairly dense forest from low to subalpine elevations.  It is in leaf all year, in flower from July to August. 

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil. Found on dry sunny hills, open wounds, moist places in open woods and clearings in Western North America. 

Food Uses
Root can be baked.

Medicinal Uses
The roots are styptic. A poultice of the chewed root has been applied to wounds. A decoction of the grated root has been used as a wash on bleeding wounds, sprains and broken limbs. The washed roots have been rubbed to make a lather and then used to wash sore eyes..

Other Uses
A watertight basket can be made from the leaves. This basket has been used for cooking food in. The fibers are split from the leaves and then used. The plant is also used to decorate baskets.

The small leaves have been used to make dresses. The plants were burnt every year. The leaves were harvested in the spring when they first started to grow out of the charred rhizome. Prior to using, the leaves were soaked in water to make them pliable, but if left too long they turned green. The dried and bleached leaves are used for weaving into hats and capes. (Source)

Value for Wildlife:
Bear grass flower stalks are a delicacy for deer and elk and are eaten by other big game animals as well. Bear grass foliage is of low forage value. Elk eat bear grass during early summer in Montana. Thick mats of bear grass and sedge (Carex spp.) provide excellent feeding sites for pocket gophers and other rodents which attract raptors. Sometimes grizzly bears use bear grass leaves as nesting material in their winter dens. (Source)

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