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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Blue-eyed-grass (Sisyrinchium montanum)

Slender little blue-eyed-grass is one of the few members of the iris family found on the dry Dakota prairies. Elsewhere, the plant occurs from southern Canada south to New York and west to Kansas and Arizona.

Look for blue-eyed-grass in rich soil areas of native pastures where grazing is light or moderate. The deep blue to white flowers of this perennial occur in clusters of two to four near the tip of the narrow stem. Flowers are about a half-inch wide with a yellow "eye". Leaves are narrow and grass-like. Up to a dozen stems grow about a foot tall from a mass of fibrous roots. Tan round seed capsules that resemble flax bolls develop by the end of June.

Blue-eyed-grass is a member of the class of plants called monocots. These include the grasses, sedges, cattails, and several other families. Monocots have woody fibers through the entire stem whereas in a much larger group of plants, the dicots, the fibers form a ring around a central layer of pith.

The name for the iris family (Iridaceae) stems from the Greek word for "rainbow". The generic name Sisyrinchium was taken from a word listed for some plant by the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus. The specific epithet angustifolium means "narrow-leaved" in botanical Latin. Blue-eyed-grass was first described for science by the early British gardener Phillip Miller (1691-1771). Miller authored The Gardeners Dictionary (173l), which went through eight editions.

Return to Iridaceae (The Iris Family)

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