Species: Xerophyllum tenax
Common names: bear grass, squaw grass, soap grass, quip-quip, Indian basket grass Swedish name: björnlilja
Xerophyllum is a genus of perennial plants native to North America. There are two species, X. asphodeloides and X. tenax, both are monocots and closely related to lilies.
Xerophyllum asphodeloides (common names: turkey beard, eastern turkey beard, beartongue, grass-leaved helonias, mountain asphodel). This species grows in the sandy soils of New Jersey pine barrens habitat, as well as oak-pine woods in the Appalachian Mountains. It is threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its habitat and fire suppression. It is considered a popular garden plant, producing spikes of white flowers.
Xerophyllum tenax is an important part of the fire ecology of regions where it is native. It has rhizomes which survive fire that clears the ground. The plant thrives with periodic burns and is often the first plant to sprout re-colonizing burnt out areas.
The elongated leaves were used for basket weaving by the Native Americans. Its fibrous leaves, which turn from green to white as they dry, are tough, durable, and easily dyed and manipulated into tight waterproof weaves. They also braid dried leaves and adorn them on traditional buckskin dresses and jewelry. Today the bear grass are harvested for commercially use in flower arrangements (both fresh and dried) or sold in craft stores for use in arts and crafts as well as home decoration.
I have chosen to describe the bear grass because it is the one I have found out being grown in Sweden. But the description and plant care is mostly the same for both species.
Description: Xerophyllum tenax is a hardy long-lived solitaire plant with spiky pine needle-like or thread-like herbaceous leaves. It blooms in the early summer carrying small stellar flowers of white at the tip of the stalk like an upright club. The flowers are slightly fragrant. Plant colonies typically only bloom every five to seven years. It grows in a tuft and creates colonies by the spreading rhizomes.
How to grow: Xerophyllum tenax prefers full sunlight and well-drained but moist, rich soil. It can tolerate wet soils. It is important to supply mulch in spring to keep the moist in the ground. Regular watering is needed. Once established do not move. Propagation by seed or dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas.
Native arts and crafts
Almost every country, indigenous culture, and native folks have their significant crafts. Some skills have been lost over time but some still thrives. It is amazing what we can do with natural materials and the art that can be preformed. Garden/nature crafts belong to gardening and a greener living. If we do it with care and respect. At the ethnographic museum I can stand and study the arts and crafts of long gone people. Mesmerized by the beauty made by hand and few but abundant resources. Have you ever tried basket weaving?
Let your creativity loose. Gather old scraps or whatever you got at home and make a basket. Here follows some tutorials for inspiration.
- DIY Newspaper Weave Basket Tutorial by Marietta at Marietta.ru (this tutorial is in Russian but the photos are very descriptive so it is doable any way)
- Woven fabric basket by Terry at Atkinsons Design (tips: use fabric scraps)
- Easy Basket Weaving by Joanne at Craft Passion
- DIY Project: Basket Weaving by Francesca at Design Sponge