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Xerophyllum tenax - (Purs.)Nutt.

Common Name Indian Basket Grass, Common beargrass
Family Melanthiaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Dry sunny hills and open woods[187]. Moist places in open woods and clearings, from sea level to 2100 metres[1, 60].
Range Western N. America - British Columbia to California.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Xerophyllum tenax Indian Basket Grass, Common beargrass

Xerophyllum tenax Indian Basket Grass, Common beargrass


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Xerophyllum tenax is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 2 m (6ft 7in) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in leaf all year, in flower from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.


X. douglasii. Helonias tenax.


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Root.
Edible Uses:

Root - baked[92].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Ophthalmic;  Styptic.

The roots are styptic[257]. A poultice of the chewed root has been applied to wounds[257]. A decoction of the grated root has been used as a wash on bleeding wounds, sprains and broken limbs[257]. The washed roots have been rubbed to make a lather and then used to wash sore eyes[257].

Other Uses

Basketry;  Fibre;  Weaving.

A watertight basket can be made from the leaves[21, 46, 61, 99, 257]. This basket has been used for cooking food in[257]. The fibres are split from the leaves and then used[92]. The plant is also used to decorate baskets[257]. The small leaves have been used to make dresses[257]. 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[257]. The dried and bleached leaves are used for weaving into hats and capes[207, 257].

Cultivation details

Requires a well-drained soil in full sun[187]. Prefers a fairly moisture-retentive sandy peaty soil[1, 200]. Requires a damp peaty soil[233]. Plants can be difficult to cultivate[188]. Plants are hardy to about -20°c[187], especially if the roots are given a good mulch in the winter[200]. If left undisturbed, plants can form quite large colonies, spreading by means of their tough rhizomes[200]. Plants do not flower every year, there are often gaps of 5 - 7 years between flowering[212].


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Seed - we have no information for this species but suggest sowing the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe if possible, otherwise in early spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division as the plant comes into growth in the spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Lisa Hansen   Sat Dec 13 2008

also usued extensivly in the floral trade, thanks i have been trying for years to find the botanical name, and where it grows as the wholesalers never know. It is known in the florist industry as bear grass

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Subject : Xerophyllum tenax  
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