Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Sacahuista, NOLINA TEXANA, flowering

from the March 24, 2013 Newsletter issued from the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

Last September we profiled a plant sometimes known as Devil's Shoestring, growing in thin soil and limestone cracks atop a nearby hill. It looked like a bathtub-size clump of grass, except that its blades were stiff and edged with sharp, low spines. Also, arising from the clump's center was a long-stalked head bearing numerous inflated, three-cornered capsular fruits. You can see all this at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/w/nolina-l.htm.

This week, not far from the Devil's Shoestring and in the same habitat, a smaller but still substantial bunch of stiff, grasslike blades turned up with a flowering head of many small, white flowers issuing from the clump's center. Its leaves were not spiny edged and the flower head lacked a long stalk, but otherwise it looked similar to Devil's Shoestring. You can see my Estonian lady-friend Malle providing scale for the plant below:


A shot of the plant with no human included is provided at the top of this page. You can see how slender and smooth-edged the leaves are below:


A close-up of the short-stalked panicle of flowers is shown below:

Sacahuista, NOLINA TEXANA, flowering panicle

And a close-up of an individual flower with conspicuous yellow anthers is seen below:


Devil's Shoestring was Nolina lindheimeriana, endemic to just a few counties in southwestern Texas. What we have here is NOLINA TEXANA, a member of the same genus, and known by such English names as Texas Sacahuista, Texas Beargrass, Basket Grass, Sacahuista and Bunchgrass. Despite "grass" being part of so many of its names, it's not a grass -- not a member of the Grass Family -- but rather is classified in the Lily, Agave, or other closely aligned family, depending on your expert.

So here's yet another pretty, drought-tolerant, native plant worthy of being planted in gardens and around homes. In fact, some garden supply stores do stock it. As one supplier says, "In-the-know professional landscapers use this tough-as-nails beauty like an evergreen grass."

Sacahuista is distributed from central Texas and New Mexico through arid Mexico into Guatemala.