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Xerophyllum (tenax)

Mark E. Majerus
USDA NRCS - Bridger Plant Materials Center
99 South River Road, Rte. 2, Box 1189
Bridger, Montana 59014-9718
(406) 662-3579
(406) 662-3428 (fax)

Family Scientific Name: Liliaceae
Family Common Name: Lily Family
Scientific Name: Xerophyllum tenax (Pursh) Nutt.
Common Name: Beargass
Species Code: XERTEN
Ecotype: Glacier National Park seed sources
Propagation Goal: plants
Propagation Method: seed
ProductType: Container (plug)
Time To Grow: 0
Propagule Processing: %Purity: Unmeasured but appears very high when processing clipped seed heads and using high wind to remove chaff.
Seed Processing: Seed heads process readily in a hammermill. Follow hammering with cleaning on an Office Clipper (fanning mill) to separate the chaff from the seeds. Relatively high amounts of wind can be used to remove the chaff.
Seed Treatments: Thiram fungicide has been used at Bridger a seed treatment, but benefits are unknown. Current research will investigate seed borne disease as a cause of seedling loss after transplanting (see Comments).
Storage Conditions: Seed is stored in a paper envelope or woven cotton sack in a basement maintained at approximately 55 to 65øF. The author has no information that this is the optimum storage method.
Storage Duration: Seed is stored for several years in above manner but no information on viability over time is available.
Pre-Planting Treatments: Dormancy breaking and germination results are based on under controlled environmental conditions in a refrigerator and environmental growth chamber. GNP seed sources germinate well after 16 weeks of cold, moist chilling at 34 to 37øF (fresh seed). Germination occurred in a growth chamber maintained at 30øC (86øF) days and 20øC (34øF) nights on an 8-hour photoperiod.
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops:
Standard greenhouse temperatures and photoperiods should result in similar germination.
Container Type and Volume: Since media moisture conditions are thought to be critical to transplanting success, it is recommended that container size be small initially (4 cubic inch or less) and that the seedlings be repeatedly transplanted to larger pots with age.
Growing Media: Several types of media have been tried without good success. Poor results were obtained with 50:50 perlite:vermiculite, 100% perlite, and a well drained commercial peat-lite mix. Try very well-drained, coarse material with low water absorption and adsorption properties and irrigate lightly but frequently.
Establishment Phase: Germination of 100-seed lots of fresh seed ranged from 38 to 82 % with the aforementioned cold, moist chilling. Only 2 of 500 seed germinated without cold, moist chilling. Dormancy breaking is reported to be more difficult with other seed sources (Pacific Coast) and may require combinations of warm, moist stratification and cold, moist chilling.
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: Several, 1-year-old seedlings overwintered well in 10 cubic inch cones in an unheated plastic hoophouse (coldframe) in Bridger, Montana.The author has no experience with the long term storage of plants.
Other Comments: The propagator has no experience with direct seeding of this species into containers, but surface or shallow sowing on an excessively well drained media is probably necessary. Seeds germinate well on double germination pads in a petri dish in the growth chamber. Although transplanting success was excellent, the seedlings deteriorated over time (within 4 to 8 weeks) and less than 20 percent ultimately survived.


Scianna, Joe. 2003. Propagation protocol for production of Container (plug) Xerophyllum tenax (Pursh) Nutt. plants USDA NRCS - Bridger Plant Materials Center Bridger, Montana. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://NativePlantNetwork.org (accessed 2021/05/13). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources.

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