Lindheimer versus Texas nolina — different bloom, different habit

See the 5-ft. bloom stalk on this plant? It’s not from the prickly pear you see in front, nor an agave, perhaps, hidden behind it. It’s the inflorescence of a Nolina lindheimeriana that I’d thought was Nolina texana until now, although I had often wondered why the thin, bunching leaves grew differently on the two plants. Sometimes it takes a dramatic bloom stalk in your face before you sort out what your plants really are.

While both nolinas are evergreen, clumping, yucca-like plants, the Lindheimer nolina, above, grows taller and more fountain-like than the Texas nolina, which tends to sprawl. The leaves are wider too.

Texas nolina is more squat, and its bloom stalk is much shorter as well. And, as it turns out, they bloom at different times.

Texas nolina in bloom last March. The inflorescence nestles amid the leaves on a short stalk.

Meanwhile, on this May Day, the Lindheimer is pushing up that dramatic flower from a whiskey barrel planter in the back garden. This will be its first bloom since I planted it a couple of years ago. Here’s a close-up of the buds.

Both nolinas have colorful nicknames. Lindheimer’s nolina is known as devil’s shoestring because of its sharp-edged leaves. Texas nolina is variously called sacahuista, bear grass, and basket grass. I read that Native Americans wove baskets from the leaves’ fibers. I have no idea why it’s called bear grass though.

I’m happy to have accidentally ended up with both species, and even happier that the tall one ended up in the back, where it won’t obscure the view of the front door.

3 Responses

  1. chuck b. says:

    Fortuitous that you planted the N. lindheimeriana in the half-barrel instead of the texana; that tall inflorescence makes your planting combination a show-stopper! You must keep us posted as the flowers open.

    So, who was Lindheimer, and how did s/he get so many desert plants named after him/her? Douglasii (douglasiana) and menziesii are popular species names in California. Menzies was Archibald Menzies, but I’m not sure who Douglas was.

    Thank you for asking, Chuck. Your question led me to this University of Texas website, which explains that Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer was a German expat, plant collector, and naturalist who settled in nearby New Braunfels, Texas, where his home is preserved today as a museum. I must stop by and pay my respects to the man whose name graces many of the native plants in my garden. —Pam

  2. chuck b. says:

    Interesting! Looks like the Linheimer house could use a garden of Texas natives.

    Sounds like a good project for…you! :)

    I can’t imagine why his house isn’t surrounded by Lindheimer’s muhly grass, nolina, senna, guara, opuntia, morning glory, vernonia, and even the shrub rose F. J. Lindheimer.

    That project sounds perfectly suited to a young, energetic horticulture student from a nearby university. Here’s a photo of Lindheimer, bushy beard and all.

  3. Susan says:

    I’ve always wondered about Mr. Lindheimer. I read a novel a few years that included a plant-collecting German traveling around Texas, maybe based on Lindheimer. I’m thinking it might have been Stephen Harrigan’s Alamo novel but I’m not sure.

    — Susan

    His life certainly sounds worthy of fictionalization, according to those bios I linked to: emigration from Germany, Texas Revolution, shipwreck, Mexico, etc., etc. —Pam