Nolina microcarpa Beargrass, Sacahuista
SUCCULENT. Not a grass, but closely related to Dasylirion
and Yucca. A knobby rootstock produces sprays of narrow, flexible,
shiny green leaves tipped with long white shreddy plumes. Leaves
are crescent-shaped in cross-section. Spikes of tiny white flowers
appear in May-June, followed by tiny seeds in papery husks. Seeds
are slightly flattened and less than 2 mm in diameter. Common in
the Empires in desert grassland and occasionally along washes in desertscrub.
Empire Mts. plants tend to have shorter flowerstalks than is typical, and
the dead leaf tips may be split instead of plumed (see left photo).
A few plants growing on limestone, such as the one in the right photo,
have more in common with N. texana than N. microcarpa.
They have narrower leaves that are triangular in cross-section and smooth-edged
leaves with split tips (not plumed). Seeds are spherical and about
3 mm in diameter. N. texana is a Texas species, common on
limestone on the Edwards Plateau, but it is not well documented from southern
Arizona. N. microcarpa is the common Arizona species and does
not usually grow in Texas. More careful study of Nolina in
the Empire Mountains might clarify the range of the two species and the
relationship between them.
FAMILY: Agavaceae (Agave Family)