Bear Grass

Nolina microcarpa

Nolina is the genus of beargrass, not a grass at all but related to desert spoons and agaves. Some Nolina species become trees.

Flowers: J F M A M J J A S O N D
Status: Native
Origin: Southwestern states at elevations from 3,000 to 6,000 feet
Family: Asparagaceae (subfamily Nolinoideae)
Size: 4′ high x 6′ wide
Sun: Full
Watering: Deep infrequent watering in summer once established. No supplemental water in winter.
Growth Rate: Moderate
Soil: Strong preference for good drainage
Temperature: Hardy to 0 F.
Disease and Pests: Root rot in cold damp soils
Uses: Host for the Gray Hairstreak and Yucca Moth. Great nectar plant. Erosion control on slopes.
Notes: In the hottest desert areas, give Bear Grass a break with partial shade. Foliage can cause paper cuts.

Other species include:

  • Texas Beargrass (Nolina texana) – native to New Mexico and central Texas. Resembles an evergreen grass that grows slowly to form a clump 3′ tall and wide. Sends up a spike of creamy white flowers in summer. Larval host for the Sandia Hairstreak. Hardy to 20 F.
  • Bigelow’s Beargrass (Nolina bigelovii) – found in southwest deserts, this bear grass has dark green, still leaves to 4′ long that grow from a basal cluster that eventually grows into a woody branchless trunk. Flowers are presented on an 8′ flower stalk.
  • Blue Beargrass Tree (Nolina nelsonii) – native to northeastern Mexico. Looks similar to a yucca, with 1″ wide grey-green to powder blue leaves that are edged with tiny teeth. Grows at a moderate rate and eventually develops a trunk to 10′ or more. Periodically produces a spike of greenish-white flowers. Hardy to 10 F.


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