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Individual Highlight

Beargrass, Long Treasured by Native Americans, Faces Pressure from the Commercial Floral Industry

Photo of Beargrass in bloom. Chris Schnepf, Univestiy of IdahoBeargrass in bloom. Chris Schnepf, Univestiy of IdahoSnapshot : Leaf harvest by the floral industry is causing shifts in disturbance within beargrass habitat.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Hummel, Susan Stevens 
Research Location : Pacific Northwest
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 660

Summary

Many hikers in the west are familiar with the member of the lily family known as beargrass, which decorates mountain meadows with its showy white flowers clustered on a single stalk. Beargrass provides food and habitat for all kinds of wildlife and has long been used by Native Americans for basketry, medicines, and regalia. Forest Service scientists studied the natural and cultural history of this plant, including its importance to pollinators, traditional harvest practices of tribes, and how it is affected by natural disturbances such as fire. They also examined the impact of the commercial floral industry, which generates more than $200 million a year in the Pacific Northwest. Although the disturbance from fire has been declining, the impact of leaf harvest by the floral industry is causing shifts in disturbance within beargrass habitat. Current management practices treat beargrass as a product rather than as part of an ecosystem. This study helps clarify the ecological importance of beargrass and identifies knowledge gaps and potential conflicts in human use.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Northern Resarch Station