Glacier Lilies

In early summer you will find Bear grass( Xerophyllum tenax) in the mountain areas. Bear grass is not only eaten by mountain goats, but elk, bighorn sheep and deer love it also. Supposedly, Grizzly bears do not really like it as much as other animals. Grizzly bears use Bear grass as a nesting material for their winter dens. Bear grass does not bloom every year, but when blooming, it produces beautiful stalks with 6 foot cream blooms. If visiting Glacier National Park or Whitefish Mountain Resort at Big Mountain in the early summer you may be lucky to see beautiful fields of this spectacular grass. Other names for Bear grass are: elk grass, squaw grass, Indian basket grass, and soap grass. Bear grass is not actually a grass, but a member of the lily family. In Glacier National Park the grass is referred to as “Glacier Lilies”.

Native Americans in the Northwest Region traded this plant to tribes from other areas. The tribes used the grass to weave baskets. Other eastern tribes used it to make tonic for sprains.

Some gardeners in the northwest grow Bear grass in their gardens. I have only seen Bear grass out in the open at Glacier and Big Mountain.

I snapped this photo 8 years ago at Whitefish Mountain Resort at Big Mountain.

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  1. Very pretty. When it actually becomes warm here I will snap some photos of the Siberian irises in my yard. ‘Course the temp has to be about 70 for a while before they’ll consider blooming for me!

    • weekendcowgirl says

      I would LOVE for you to take some photos for me then I can blog them with link to your blog!!! That would be fun… I love irises and am planning on adding more in front of farm house.

  2. Thanks for commenting on my blog. And no, I don’t fry food on a regular basis. I’ve made chinese, barbecue, chicken with rice etc. Yes, I will check you food topics.


  3. I was told once that Bear grass is fire resistant, and will grow immediately after a fire…that is if it is found in the area to begin with.

  4. Wow, never seen a plant like that before. It must look amazing in a field. I love the folk lore that goes along with plants. Just makes them that much more interesting.

  5. I ran across bear grass while hiking at the higher elevations in the Columbia Gorge on the Oregon side above the Columbia River. I remember thinking it looked a little other-wordly as you never see anything like it anywhere else. If I remember rightly, it was in bloom as well. You brought back some memories of a fun but grueling weekend hike.

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