Saturday, April 04, 2009

Every yard needs a nolina

There are local wild plants that really deserve more attention in local gardens. For example, whenever I see Argentinian pampas grass, I mentally replace it with bear grass. Not quite as lush, to be sure, but then it is far better adapted to our low water regimen.

Above, bear grass in the landscape at a friend's house; below, a wild plant up the hill next door.

Our local bear grass is at its most spectacular when the flowering stems produce masses of honey-colored seeds in late summer, which natives are reported to have ground into a flour. This particular plant is a large wild clump that hangs out over Coronado Street, blooming reliably every year.

Though I have two substantial nolina clumps which I bought many years ago at Watters, I've tried planting the seeds too. Here is one of two success stories. The slow-growing member of the lily family is over 5 years old.

The fibers dangling from the leaves not only make a pretty close-up but also suggest traditional uses. The plant is known as Indian basket plant, because native Americans used the leaves and roots of bear grass to make traditional baskets. Bear grass baskets often integrated materials from other plants to make colorful patterns, and they would have been strong and durable. Some Indians also used bear grass to make protective caps for their heads, according to Wise Geek. Sandals were another use. Incidentally, I shudder at the idea of working with these razor edged leaves without modern protective gloves -- I've no idea how those Indian ladies did it!

7 comments:

worldphotos4 said...

Nice to have some plants that take to the dry conditions. Good shots.

Jarart said...

Very interesting and informative post.

Linda G. said...

You left out one important use. At least past use..
When my friends and I bounded about the boulders playing Nyoka the jungle girl, these made very fine spears because it didn't hurt much when you were struck by one. I liked this game best when I got to be Nyoka.

Kim said...

Great post! I'm a huge advocate of native plants as you may have guessed. And the Nolinas are such fine ones...

Granny J said...

steve -- actually, we have many splendid wild plants that are beautiful in the garden. More people should know about them!

jarart -- it's one of my favorite local plants!

lindag -- I'll admit, the leaves make a much less pointy sword than, say, yucca -- but how did you handle them to keep from slicing up your fingers on those mean edges???

kim -- if it goes in the ground around my place, odds are that it's a local, wild plant. Theother kind go into tubs and planters, so I don't have to water all of the great outdoors to have a few nasturtiums and mini roses.

Linda G. said...

GJ, we used the stems from blossoms from the year before. They just pull out and the blossom end looks almost like feathers..high drama was involved....

Granny J said...

lindaG -- got it! Mybro & I used those old-fashioned metal-channel curtain rods for our sword fights because 1) they were light weight & 2) the curved end made a proper handle.

 
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