Xerophyllum is a North American genus of two species once considered to belong in the Liliaceae family and now considered by some to belong to the Melanthiaceae family. The leaves are grass-like and the white flowers very showy.

Xerophyllum asphodeloides, is found in coastal pine barrens and open, dry mountain woods in the eastern US (New Jersey south to Tennesse and Georgia). It is commonly known as "eastern Turkeybeard". The photo is from a population in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina. Photo by Ron Parsons

Xerophyllum asphodeloides, Ron Parsons

Xerophyllum tenax, commonly known as "Bear Grass", is found in open forests and meadows at subalpine and alpine elevations in the western US. It is an evergreen perennial growing from a large woody rhizome. Not all plants bloom every year.

Seed can be started fairly easily by sowing just scratched into the surface of a sandy soil mix in Autumn. The plants benefit from a mycorrhizae association, so inoculating the seeds or adding a handful of native soil (with the characteristic white "webbing" of mycorrhizae) added to the potting mix may improve survivability. Keep the seeds and soil medium moist and in the elements until germination occurs some time in late Winter or Spring, then move to a protected location (like a covered porch) or else Spring rains may kill the young seedlings. Travis Owen had success germinating the seeds this way but cautions that early rains will wreak havoc on the young seedlings (a lesson learned from experience). He shares the following photos of the surviving seedlings:

Xerophyllum tenax seedlings, Travis OwenXerophyllum tenax seedlings, Travis Owen

Photos 1-2 below were taken by Ron Parsons from populations in Jackson County, Oregon. Photo 3 by Paige Woodward.

Xerophyllum tenax, Ron ParsonsXerophyllum tenax, Ron ParsonsXerophyllum tenax,  Paige Woodward

Plants photographed in May 2009 by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller were taken in Mendocino County, California, on a coastal ridge where they were blooming in an open area cleared for the power lines. Rarely seen in bloom except after a fire, we were very happy to spot them.

Xerophyllum tenax, Bob RutemoellerXerophyllum tenax, Bob RutemoellerXerophyllum tenax, Mary Sue IttnerXerophyllum tenax, Mary Sue Ittner

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