© Charlotte Staub Thomas

Bear Grass

Xerophyllum tenax

IN MID-JUNE 1806, when Lewis collected this unusual flower in the Bitterroot Mountains, he made no note of it; he had become familiar with the plant long before he saw it in bloom. Not a grass at all but a member of the lily family, bear grass is native to the Northwest from near sea level to elevations of 7,000 feet. Its tough evergreen leaves grow close to the ground. In the mountains, it must survive dry winds and blowing ice crystals.

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