Sisyrinchium montanum (Mountain Blue-eyed Grass)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||sun; moist to average sandy fields, meadows, roadsides|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||5 to 20 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Bright blue to deep violet, star-like flowers 5/8 to ¾ inch across with 6 tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals all similar), the tips of which are usually notched; a small needle-like projection is at the very tip. A bright spot at the base of each tepal creates a greenish to yellow throat, with a column of bright yellow-tipped stamens in the center. Flowers or borne in groups of 2 to 4, at the tip of a long stalk and enclosed by two narrow leaf-like bracts (spathe).
The spathe is typically green like the color of the leaves and stem, sometimes bronze or purplish, with the outer one up to 3 inches long and may be more than twice as long as the inner one. The edges of the outer spathe are joined for up to 1/8 inch at the base. Each flower is on a short slender stalk, with only 1 or 2 flowers open at a time.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are all basal, long and slender, grass-like, generally 5-10 inches long, the largest over 1/10 inch wide with smooth, almost waxy (glaucescent) surfaces and very finely toothed edges (microscope required!). The flowering stems are also flattened, 1/10 to 1/8 inch wide, with a strong central vein and two distinct wings on the sides. The stem also has very finely toothed edges and often twists up to a full turn from base to tip.
Minnesota has 3 Blue-eyed Grass species with ranges that overlap to a great extent, yet each exhibits a geographic preference. Mountain Blue-eyed Grass predominates in the northern half of Minnesota and is the only species common throughout the north central and north eastern counties. Its habitat preference is from moist to more mesic soils where it can sometimes be found growing side-by-side with Needle-pointed Blue-eyed Grass (S. mucronatum) in the NW Red River Valley. The latter can be distinguished by its more slender form in both leaves and the barely winged stems, as well as round fruits about half the size of S. montanum fruits. The predominantly southern Prairie Blue-eyed Grass (S. campestre) is found on dry, often very sandy prairie soils and is lighter in color, both flower and foliage, with toothless leaves and stems, and its outer spathe is not joined at the base. A fourth species, Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass (S. angustifolium), not seen in Minnesota since 1950 but recently rediscovered near Duluth, is easily distinguished by its multiple, long-stalked flower clusters arising from the spathe. There are 2 varieties of S. montanum: var. crebrum dries to dark brown and its spathe is joined up to ¼ inch, and var. montanum, found in Minnesota, that dries green to olive and has a spathe joined up to 1/8 inch.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and Kittson counties, and in a private garden in Ramsey County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?