blue-eyed grasses

(Sisyrinchium spp.)


Sisyrinchium is a large genus of flowering plants. It is native to the New World and has been introduced in Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia, India, Iran, and Madagascar. In the United States it occurs in every state including Alaska and Hawaii. In Canada it occurs in every province except Nunavut. In South America it occurs in every country except French Guiana. In Minnesota it has been recorded in every county except Kanabec.

There are 211 accepted Sisyrinchium species worldwide, at least 38 species in North America north of Mexico, and at least 6 species in Minnesota.

blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)
Photo by Crystal Boyd

Though called blue eyed grass, Sisyrinchium is not a grass, and not all species have blue flowers. Like grasses, it has long, thin leaves and it grows in grasslands. However, it belongs to the Iridaceae family and is closely related to irises. Some species in South America have white, yellow, or purple flowers, or flowers with two colors. In the United States, one species (Sisyrinchium albidum) may have blue or white flowers, and one species (Sisyrinchium californicum) has only yellow flowers.

Sisyrinchium is found in open areas, including prairies, open woodlands, and roadsides.


Sisyrinchium plants grow in clumps.

The roots are fibrous. There are underground stems (rhizomes), but these may be obscure when the plants grow in clumps.

There are 2 to 6 leaves. They may be all basal, or there may be some basal and some low on the stem, nearly basal. The leaf blades are linear, narrow, and sword-like – stiff and erect. They are usually hairless.

There are usually 2 or more flowering stems. The stems are erect, flattened, and usually winged. They may be branched or unbranched. There are 1 to 4 inflorescences per flowering stem.

Each inflorescence is a cluster of 2 to 11 flowers, rarely up to 15 flowers, at the end of the stem. The inflorescence is subtended and partially enclosed by a pair of claw-like bracts (spathes).

Each flower has 3 petals, 3 petal-like sepals (6 tepals), 3 stamens, and 3 styles. The tepals are spreading or bent backward, and are bluish violet to light blue, white, lavender to pink, magenta, purple, or yellow.

The fruit is a globe-shaped seed capsule.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.



Plantae (green algae and land plants)


Viridiplantae (green plants)


Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)


Embryophyta (land plants)


Tracheophyta (vascular plants)


Spermatophytina (seed plants)


Liliopsida (monocots)


Asparagales (agaves, orchids, irises, and allies)


Iridaceae (irises and allies)






Subordinate Taxa

Alaska blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium littorale)

annual blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium rosulatum)

bigroot blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium radicatum)

blue pigroot (Sisyrinchium micranthum)

blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium arizonicum)

coastal plain blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium fuscatum)

dwarf blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium minus)

eastern blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium atlanticum)

Elmer’s blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium elmeri)

Funeral Mountain blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium funereum)

Greenland blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium groenlandicum)

Hitchcock’s blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium hitchcockii)

Idaho blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium idahoense)

jeweled blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium xerophyllum)

limestone blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium calciphilum)

Miami blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium miamiense)

mountain blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sarmentosum)

narrow-leaved blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

Nash’s blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium nashii)

needle blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium capillare)

needle-tip blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium mucronatum)

Nevada blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium halophilum)

nodding blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium cernuum)

northern blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium septentrionale)

pale blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium pallidum)

prairie blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre)

roadside blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium langloisii)

spearbract blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sagittiferum)

spotted blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium pruinosum) (?)

stiff blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium demissum)

strict blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium montanum)

sword-leaf blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium ensigerum)

timberland blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium longipes)

western blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)

white blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium albidum)

wiry blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium biforme)

wishbone blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium dichotomum)

yellow-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium californicum)





Common Names

blue-eyed grasses














A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



One or two large bracts that subtend, hood, or sometimes envelope a flower or flower cluster, as with a Jack-in-the-Pulpit.



A thin, flat, membranous, usually transparent appendage on the margin of a structure.

Visitor Photos

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Dan W. Andree

2 Little Short ones...

These two … were just by themselves and short to the ground compared to the other ones. I’m sure they are the same kind as some of the others sent just a shorter version. Still they caught my eye against a more subtle background.

  blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

Flower fly on Blue-eyed Grass...

Seen this little bee-like fly on I think some kind of Blue-eyed Grass that was blooming. Both flower and flower fly were real small. The flowers were smaller then some prairie blossom flowers even.


blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)   blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

Lighter colored Blue-eyed Grass Blooming...



… cropped in image of the lighter colored ....

… Prairies are not easy to capture plants, butterflies, bees etc. since just a light breeze can get a plant swaying back and forth etc. But anyway I like this lighter colored one about as much as the darker purplish ones.


Tiny Bee on Blue-eyed Grass Blossom...

This is that tiny bee on the blue-eyed grass. The flowers not to mention the little bees, flower flies etc. that land on them are hardly noticeable. I was going to try zoom in closer to get a better more detailed look but it flew off. I am sure it will be hard to tell what kind of little bee it is but anyway cute little thing. I filmed the little bee it was first on an upper blossom above where it is in this image then flew down and fed on that blossom.

  blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)
blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)   blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

Crystal Boyd

blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.) Photos











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Visitor Sightings

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Dan W. Andree
Spring 2024

Location: On a prairie in Norman Co. Mn.

Seen this little bee-like fly on I think some kind of Blue-eyed Grass that was blooming. Both flower and flower fly were real small. The flowers were smaller then some prairie blossom flowers even.

blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

Crystal Boyd

Location: Black Dog Preserve (now Minnesota Valley NWR, Black Dog Unit)

blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.) Sightings






Created: 9/30/2023

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