Perennial herb from a short, stout, somewhat woody rhizome; flowering stems erect, robust, 0.5-1.5 m tall.
Basal leaves numerous in large clumps, rigid, wiry, narrowly linear (grass-like), 20-90 cm long, 1.5-6 mm wide, harshly rough-margined with tiny teeth; stem leaves several to many, reduced upward and eventually bract-like.
Inflorescence a dense, pyramidal, terminal cluster, at first bulbous and nippled, later elongating, 10-40 cm long, of numerous, stalked flowers, the stalks slender, 2-5 cm long; flowers white to cream, saucer-shaped, of 6 similar, distinct tepals, the tepals oblong, 5-10 mm long; stamens 6; pistil 1, 3-chambered.
Capsules, broadly egg-shaped, 3-lobed, 5-7 mm long; seeds oblong, 2 to 5 in each chamber, 3-4 mm long.
If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.
Illustration Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia
Present from Summer to Fall
Source: The USDA
||Value / Class
Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
of field plots
species was recorded in:
BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in
|AT(25), ESSF(423), ICH(91), IMA(1), MS(7)|
Source: Klinkenberg 2013
Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Helonias tenax Pursh
Bear grass is a spectacular BC native plant that remains uncommon in cultivation, probably because it can take some time to reach flowering size. Bear grass looks like a grass but is actually from the lily family. Its fine, shiny, toothed grass-like foliage forms an attractive evergreen mound. Its dramatic cone-shaped flower spikes can reach six feet in height. The flowers are creamy-white and fragrant. Evenly moist, well-drained soil in part shade to sun.
Note Author: Gary Lewis, Phoenix Perennials