Our Plants

June 2011 Plant Highlight:Nolina matapensis

by Brian Kemble

  N. matapensis foliage

The Nolinaceae is a small family of monocots native to North America, especially the southwestern U.S. and Mexico.  The family takes its name from the genus Nolina, which occurs both in the U.S. and in Mexico.  Some species resemble bunches of grass, and are commonly called “bear grass”, but others are of larger stature and develop trunks.  One of these is Nolina matapensis, which is found in the mountains along the border between the states of Sonora and Chihuahua in northwestern Mexico.

Though it was named in 1940, Nolina matapensis was not found in cultivation until its introduction by the International Succulent Institute in 1976.  Our plant at the Ruth Bancroft Garden dates from that year, and has grown into an impressive specimen 11 feet tall, with large heads of arching narrow blue-green leaves.  The species description gives a leaf length of up to 4 feet (1.2 m), but our plant has grown larger, with 6-foot leaves (almost 2 m).  Although our plant does not flower every year, it has produced 4 inflorescences this year.

flowerLike other nolinas, N. matapensis has separate male and female plants, with branched inflorescences bearing many tiny flowers.  Bees are attracted to the male flowers as a source of pollen, and to the female flowers as a source of nectar.  The male inflorescence is straw-colored, with small white cup-like flowers.  The female inflorescence is more greenish, with similar cup-like flowers giving way to small papery winged fruits containing little round seeds.


Purchasing Plants

Plant Highlight

Plant Donations

Garden Plant Information

Plant Highlight Archives

Mission Statement
The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.
Grant Funders

The Ruth Bancroft Garden would like to recognize the following grant funders:

The Quest Foundation for funding our Education Coordinator’s position

The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for funding our directional signs.

The California Horticultural Society for funding towards our restoration projects.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden GardenConservancy