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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Yellow Stargrass (Hypoxis hirsuta)

Down among the bases of the tall grasses in our moist native prairies and coulee bottoms the little yellow stargrass begins to bloom in late May. The plant is restricted to the east in North Dakota; elsewhere plants can be found in meadows and open woods from Manitoba to Maine, and south to Florida and Texas.

Yellow stargrass has no stem. Instead, the three to six-inch long leaves and flower stalks (called scapes) rise directly from a perennial onion-like structure called a corm. Each plant has five to ten six-petalled yellow flowers about a half inch wide. The three to six leaves are very narrow, and provided with a few long hairs.

Never abundant enough to provide much forage, yellow stargrass grows best where grazing is light or the area is annually mowed after mid-July. The plant has no known economic value, but some of its relatives in India are known to have properties similar to ginseng.

Yellow stargrass is a member of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae) which contains many ornamentals such as narcissus, snowdrops, and tuberose. The family is in the class of plants called monocots, wherein among other characters, the veins of the leaves are mostly parallel, rather than in a net-like pattern. Amaryllis was a shepherdess in the writings of the Roman author Virgil. The generic name Hypoxis is from the Greek hypoxys, "somewhat acid," and the specific epithet hirsuta means "stiffly hairy" in botanical Latin. The famous Swedish naturalist Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) described yellow stargrass for science in his monumental Species Plantarum of 1753.

Return to Amaryllidaceae (The Amaryllis Family)

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