Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains
68. Iridaceae, the Iris Family
1. Sisyrinchium L. -- Blue-eyed grass
1. Sisyrinchium montanum Greene
Fibrous-rooted perennial 1-4.5 dm tall, often tufted, with mostly basal, grasslike
leaves 1-3 mm wide and scapose inflorescences, the plants glaucescent, drying
pale, sometimes purplish at the base; scapes narrowly to broadly winged,
1.5-3 mm wide. Inflorescence of 1-several flowers, terminal on the scape,
subtended by a 2-bracted spathe, the outer bract (2.5)3.5-6(8.5) cm long, mostly
1.5-3X longer than the inner bract, the margins of the outer bract united for
1-3 mm above the base. Flowers blue-violet with a yellow center, perfect,
regular; perianth of 6 membranous tepals (5)7-14 mm long, apiculate to
emarginate at the tip; stamens 3, united by their filaments around the
style; style 3-branched, ovary inferior, 3-celled, globose. Fruit
a subglobose, loculicidal capsule, pale to stramineous, 4-7 mm in diameter;
seeds many, black, globular, shallowly pitted. Late May--Jul. Wet meadows,
ditches, swales and floodplains, also in drier situations; ND and e MT, s to
NE and e WY, most common in the n and w parts; (Que. to AK, s to NY, IN, IA,
KS and CO).
S. montanum belongs to a complex of closely related species which
includes the eastern S. angustifolium and several western species.
Although S. angustifolium has been attributed to our region, my attempts
to discern it among plants of the northern plains have been unsuccessful.
A few white-flowered dwarf plants from nw ND do not fit S. montanum
well, nor any other species attributed to the region.
Also occurring in the extreme e and s parts of the region is S. campestre,
white-eyed grass. Although occasionally found in wet meadows, this plant is
more characteristic of mesic sites, especially in tallgrass prairie. It is
easily distinguished from S. montanum by its white to light blue-violet
flowers and the fact that the margins of the outer spathe bract are free to
the base. The plant is generally smaller and earlier flowering than S.
Return to Family -- Iridaceae - The Iris Family