Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Nolina bigelovii, Bigelow's Beargrass

Bigelow's Beargrass is a native species, a shrub or subshrub and maybe a tree, with greenish-blue leaves in large rosettes. Spanish names include Yuca (Yucca), Sotol and Zacate. Nolina bigelovii Bigelow's Beargrass has a large flowering stalk topped with showy white or cream colored flowers. Bigelow’s Beargrass blooms from May to June at elevations between 1,000 and 4,500 feet. Nolina bigelovii Bigelow's Beargrass prefers rocky hillsides, ridges and canyons in the southwest United States. Bigelow’s Beargrass has been used for food and for material for baskets by southwestern America indigenous peoples. Nolina bigelovii Bigelow's Beargrass is a handsome plant with an iconic western profile. It is used in desert and upland landscaping as a focal species. Nolina bigelovii

Scientific Name: Nolina bigelovii
Common Name: Bigelow's Beargrass
Also Called: Bigelow Beargrass, Bigelow Nolina, Bigelow's Nolina, (Spanish: Yuca, Sotol, Zacate)
Family: Agavaceae, Agave or Century Plant Family (Reclassified to Asparagaceae)
Synonyms: (Nolina bigelovii var. bigelovii)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 12 feet including flowering stalk.
Growth Form: Shrub, subshrub, tree; plants large rosettes plants up to 8 feet above ground, caulescent or arborescent.
Leaves: Green, glaucous; leaves in rosettes, not rigid, linear; margins serrate or entire.
Flower Color: White, cream or tan; flowers showy, sepals and petals similar (tepals); inflorescence mostly compound paniculate; fruit a capsule.
Flowering Season: May to June.
Elevation: 1,000 to 4,500 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Rocky hillsides, ridges and canyons.

Recorded Range: Nolina bigelovii is found in the southwestern United States in AZ, CA, NV. In Arizona it occurs in the northwest parts of the state and in Gila and Yuma counties. In Nevada it is found in the extreme northeast corner and in California it is found in the southeast part of the state and in Tulare County. It is also native to Baja California and northwest Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Nolina bigelovii.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.

Threatened/Endangered Information: In North America Nolina bigelovii is listed as "Salvage Restricted, Harvest Restricted" by the state of Arizona.

Genus Information: In North America there are 14 species and 14 accepted taxa overall for Nolina. World wide, The Plant List includes 29 accepted species names and includes a further 11 infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona and California each have 4 species of Nolina, Nevada and Utah each have 1 species, New Mexico has 3 species, Texas has 5 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Nolina bigelovii is a handsome plant with an iconic western profile. It is used in desert and upland landscaping as a premiere focal species. The type species for Nolina bigelovii is from the Bill Williams River (Bigelovii in 1853-1854).

In Southwest Desert Flora also see; Beargrass, Nolina microcarpa.

Nolina bigelovii has been used for food and for material for baskets by southwestern America indigenous peoples.
Cahuilla Food, Unspecified; Stalk baked in a rock lined roasting pit and eaten.
Papago Fiber, Basketry; Bleached or green grass used for basketry.
See ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

Date Profile Completed: 01/15/2017, updated format 10/06/2017
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 01/13/2017)
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 01/13/2017).
William J. Hess, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Agavaceae | 14. Nolina bigelovii (Torrey) S. Watson, Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts. 14: 247. 1879.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 01/13/2017]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
Dale W. McNeal & James C. Dice 2017. Nolina bigelovii, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.)
Jepson eFlora,, accessed on January 13, 2017.
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information - (accessed 01/13/2017).