The snow, of the precipitated kind, is gone, making way for another kind of white drift.
Hikers on Mount Spokane’s Mt. Kit Carson Trail 140 reported “spectacular” blooms over the weekend.
The distinctive plant’s beautiful blooms are aided by lots of rain. Mass blooming of bear grass tends to only happen every five to 10 years, although individual plants do bloom each year, according to the National Park Service.
Beargrass is not a grass but a member of the Melanthiaceae family. Bears don’t eat it.
The plant is native to Montana but can also be found in subalpine meadows and coastal mountains throughout the Pacific Northwest. It extends from British Columbia to northern California and eastward to Alberta and northwestern Wyoming, according to the National Park Service.
The plant can grow up to 5 feet tall. While bears don’t eat it, they do use its leaves as denning material. Sheep, deer, elk and goats are known to eat beargrass.
A common myth about beargrass is that it only blooms every seven years. This isn’t quite true.
“A single plant may have numerous basal rosettes on a common root system. Each rosette will bloom only once. Factors for abundant plant blooming include ideal amounts of spring rainfall and moisture present in the soil,” according to an NPS news release. “While some beargrass can be found blooming every year, park managers note that mass blossoming of beargrass typically occurs every five to 10 years in Glacier National Park. Blooming can begin in late May in lower elevations and continue into August in the high country.”
Humans have a long history with the plant. Native Americans have used the leaves – which are durable yet flexible – to weave baskets, according to a NPS literature and data review from 2012.
The plant was also eaten and used as medicine and decoration.
The closest place to see beargrass in Spokane is Mount Spokane, particularly on Mount Kit Carson and along the nordic trails for an easier and less steep option, said Holly Weiler, Washington Trail Association’s Eastern Washington coordinator.
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