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Basketry; Fibre; Weaving.
A watertight basket can be made from the leaves. This basket has been used for cooking food in. The fibres are split from the leaves and then used. The plant is also used to decorate baskets.
The small leaves have been used to make dresses. The plants were burnt every year. The leaves were harvested in the spring when they first started to grow out of the charred rhizome. Prior to using, the leaves were soaked in water to make them pliable, but if left too long they turned green.
The dried and bleached leaves are used for weaving into hats and capes.
A member of the Lily family, this bulb wildflower was used by Indians in many ways. The leaves were bleached and used to weave garments as well as baskets. The dark brown, wrinkled, elongated shaped bulb was roasted. Even today, the leaves are used by florists in flower arrangements. It is found from British Columbia to central California and east to Idaho and Montana, deep in the pristine cleanness of the mountains at higher altitudes. Other common names for this incredible flower are: Elk Grass, Turkey Beard, Bear Lily, Squaw Grass, Indian Basket Grass and Pine Lily.
Bear grass is a favorite of Rocky Mountain Sheep during the winter and the Elk who traverse the Rocky Mountains at high altitude and it's a wonder this plant survives at all--such is its popularity as a food resource. This bulb plant barely sits below the soil. It is said that it flowers only once every 6 to 7 years, much like the Saturn cycle of 7 years. Slopes can be peppered with hundreds of this two to five feet tall yellowish-white 'candles' that look like pale, dramatic "flames" embracing mountain meadows and slopes here and there. They have hundreds of tiny whitish-yellow flowers and a delicious honey-like fragrance that scents the air around them. As you walk a high mountain path at six or seven thousand feet, the breeze will waft this incredibly heady, sweet perfume surrounds one as they walk nearby. It reminds me of what Nirvana must smell like--a delicate, light scent that, when pulled deeply into our lungs, cleanses us, quite literally, from the inside out.
Beargrass flower stalks are a delicacy for deer and elk and are eaten by other big game animals as well. Elk eat beargrass during early summer in Montana. Thick mats of beargrass and sedge provide excellent feeding sites for pocket gophers and other rodents which attract raptors. Sometimes grizzly bears use beargrass leaves as nesting material in their winter dens
Native Americans in the Rocky Mountain region traded this plant to tribes from other areas. Eastern prairie tribes used the boiled roots for hair tonic and as a treatment for sprains. Coastal tribes bleach and dye the leaves for decorative designs woven into baskets and Southwest tribes use it in basketweaving. New beargrass leaves produced the first year after a fire are preferred for basket weaving because they are stronger, thinner, and more pliable In recent years florists have discovered that beargrass leaves make sturdy long-lasting greens, and some National Forests are issuing permits for beargrass
harvesting Beargrass rhizomes may be toxic to people.