Beargrass

Beargrass meadow on the side of Fusilade Mountain in Glacier National Park

Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) is the official flower of Glacier National Park. Closely related to the lily family, this luxuriant plant thrives in post-wildfire habitats and is often one of the first plants to recolonize. Rhizomes of the plant are able to live through wildfires. After the fires die out, these rhizomes are able to regrow the plant in the newly nutrient-rich ashen soil. Usually, these plants grow in colonies, both in burned and non-burned areas and bloom every 5-7 years. It is not fully understood why the bloom is triggered, but some years see far more Beargrass than others. On a good year in the right area, this plant can completely cover meadows and mountain slopes.

Beargrass is actually not preferred food for bears, but is for moose, elk and deer. The stalks become nearly wood-like in the years after the bloom and the waterproof fiber was used by Native Americans throughout the mountainous areas of the American West for weaving watertight containers.

The Beargrass meadow pictured is high on the slopes of Fusillade Mountain above Gunsight Lake.

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