Scientific Name: Nolina microcarpa
Common Names: Sacahuista, Beargrass, Bear Grass, Sacahuiste, Palmilla Sacahuista, Sacahuista Beargrass, Small-seed Nolina
Duration: Perennial, Evergreen
Growth Habit: Shrub, Subshrub, Unusual Shrub
Arizona Native Status: Native
Habitat: Desert, Upland. This plant grows in upper elevation desert foothills, desert grasslands, and pine-oak or juniper-oak woodlands.
Flower Color: White
Flowering Season: Late spring, Early summer. It blooms in May and June.
Height: Up to 6 feet (2 m) tall flower stalks
Description: Although this plant looks very grasslike, it is not actually a grass. The small, white flowers are in plumelike, greenish, upright to leaning inflorescences that are much taller than the leaves. The flowers are followed by papery, inflated, translucent, greenish-yellow seed capsules. The leaves have dry, curled, string-like tips and are green, wiry, flexible, arching, concavo-convex (concave above and convex below), edged with very tiny teeth, narrowly linear in shape, and in a dense rosette that emerges from a short, branched, woody underground stem. The plants are clumping.
The similar Texas Sacahuista (Nolina texana) has inflorescences that are shorter or only slightly taller than the leaves and leaves that are stiff, untoothed or rarely only sparsely toothed, and slightly concavo-convex only near the base.
Culturally Significant Plant – Native Americans used the leaves for woven mats, cordage, thatch, and basketry. The roots were used for medicinal purposes. The fruit, seeds, and flower stalks were eaten.
Edible – The white, sweet, inner part of the boiled or roasted flower stalks is edible, but this plant is protected.
Legal Status – Protected Native Plant (Salvage Restricted, Harvest Restricted)
Poisonous – The flowers and seeds are especially toxic to sheep and goats.
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
Family: Liliaceae – Lily family
Genus: Nolina Michx. – beargrass
Species: Nolina microcarpa S. Watson – sacahuista
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