Beargrass – Xerophyllum tenax

False Hellebore Family – Melanthiaceae

Actual flower size: 1/2 inch across

Actual flower size: 1/2 inch across

Beargrass is also called Squaw Grass.

Plant Description: Beargrass has a single flowering stem that is 3 to 5 feet tall and stout, with short stem-leaves that become even smaller further up the stem. The basal leaves form a very large clump. The basal leaves are up to 3 feet long and tend to arch over, almost reaching the ground. They are wiry, evergreen and have finely-toothed edges. A cluster of 100’s of tiny, white to cream, fragrant flowers bloom along the upper section of the stem. The flowers are tightly packed at first, but spread out as the stem elongates. Each flower has its own stalk which is up to 2 inches long.  The lower flowers bloom first. As the bloming progresses, the top-most cluster of buds has a nipple-like appearance.

Flower Description: The flowers are ¼ to ½ inch across and have 6 white, oblong tepals that curve out and somewhat upward.  The 6 stamen with white anthers are longer than the petals.

Ecology: Beargrass grows in clearings and meadows at medium to high elevations.


  • Beargrass has been moved from the Lily Family to the False Hellebore Family.  See “APG Changes” page.
  • The flowers are fragrant.
  • Beargrass is the only member of the Lily Group that is evergreen.
  • Native American women used the leaves to weave baskets, hats and capes.

 Beargrass Photo Gallery



Actual flower size: 1/2 inch across