Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Members of the Lily family, the bear grasses or Dasylirions are a type of succulent. The genus name refers to the thick, tufted, lily-like appearance of the plants. These species are native mostly to the southern U.S. Their range also extends into Mexico. These showy, reliable, flowering plants have a woody, erect trunk or caudex. Very leafy plants, these have foliage in a rosette that can be either globe or dome-shaped. In some species, there will be a two-tiered effect with the older leaves radiating out and forming a circle around the base, while the newer foliage forms a tight upright cluster.
The stiff, long leaves are extremely numerous. These have spine-like teeth along the edges. Sometimes, there will be a bunch of threads at the tips of the leaves.
In some species, the leaves are narrower and more grass-like, which explains the name bear grass. In other species, it is thicker and broader like that of a yucca or agave.
The bear grasses are noted for their delightful yucca-like blooms. The tall flower stalks stand well above the rest of the plant. The flowering spikes can reach ten feet or more in height. There are clusters of small, greenish-white blossoms covering the flower stalks. These plants are known by other common names. These include grass trees.
The bear grasses are grown in greenhouses and conservatories as well as outdoors in warm climates. They will tolerate some cold temperatures. All of the bear grasses need full sun and a well drained soil. The bear grasses are fairly easy to grow. They can be easily propagated from seed. Cuttings are used as well.
All in all there are about ten or so species of bear grasses. Some of these are in cultivation. These include the following.
Dasylirion acrotrichum is native to Mexico. This is known simply as bear grass. When it isn’t blooming, the plant is only three feet tall. The leaves form a rosette at the top of the trunk. The flower stalk is over 15 feet tall.
Mexican grass plant has a tree-like appearance. This can reach ten to twelve feet or so in height. The leaves are very large—five feet or more in length. The flower stalk is about six feet tall. The foliage is dull green. As the common name implies, this is native to Mexico.
Desert spoon is noted for its tidy rosette of foliage and the attractive trunk. This plant can reach 15 feet in height when it is in bloom. The leaves can grow to be three feet in length. Along the edges are spiny teeth. This species is native to the Southwest and Mexico.
Texas bear grass is native to Texas and Mexico. This has shiny, deep green foliage up to three feet long. Somewhat droopy, the leaves are quite narrow—only ½ inch wide. Along the edges are yellow spines. This plant can reach ten feet tall. Blooming during the summer, the statuesque flower stalks can be 15 feet in height. It is covered with white b