Either of two species of North American plants that make up the genus Xerophyllum, in the family Melanthiaceae. The western species, X. tenax, also known as elk grass, squaw grass, and fire lily, is a smooth, light-green mountain perennial with a stout, unbranched stem and grasslike, rough-edged leaves at the bottom. It flowers at five to seven years, bearing a large cluster of small creamy-white flowers at the top of the stem. The turkey beard (X. asphodeloides) of southern North America is a similar plant that grows in dry pine barrens. In the southern and southwestern U.S., the name bear grass is given to various kinds of yucca and to the camas (Camassia scilloides) and the aloelike Dasylirion texanum.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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