Xyris montana (Northern Yellow-eyed Grass)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bog Yellow-eyed Grass, Montane Yellow-eyed Grass
Family:Xyridaceae (Yellow-eyed Grass)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:sun; wet, peaty soil; bogs, fens, peatlands, floating mats
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:2 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 3-petals Cluster type: round Cluster type: spike

[photo of flower and bracts] A single oval-elliptic flower head up to 1/3 inch long at the tip of the stem, with 4 to 7 brown, appressed, scale-like bracts spiraling around the head and a single flower emerging from the axil of each bract, though typically only 1 or 2 flowers are open at a time. Flowers are yellow, about ¼ inch across, with 3 petals slightly ragged at the tips. In the center are 3 erect, fertile, yellow stamens and 3 hairy, sterile stamens. 3 sepals are usually hidden by the bracts.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, 1½ to 6 inches long, less than 1/8 inch wide, grass-like, toothless, hairless, and arranged in a narrow fan. Leaf bases are red to purple. Flowering stems are erect, ribbed, hairless, and straight to somewhat twisted. Plants are loosely clump forming and can form large mats in favorable conditions.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

The floral bracts persist, forming a seed head and expanding as fruit matures. Fruit is a narrowly elliptic, translucent seed less than 1 mm long.


Northern Yellow-eyed Grass is one of two Xyris species in Minnesota, both of which are rare, but their ranges are not known to overlap so location is an aid to identification. X. montana is found in our northern counties in peatlands, floating mats, bogs and fens. According to the DNR, it was first discovered in St. Louis County in 1970 and a few dozen populations were subsequently recorded, with the majority in Lake County. It was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984; besides habitat destruction, threats are recreational activities and land-use changes that alter the hydrology or chemical balance of its boggy habitat. The other Xyris species, Twisted Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris torta), is distinguished by its larger size (to 30 inches tall), longer and more distinctly twisted leaves and stems, bulbous base of the stem, and locations limited to the Anoka Sandplain.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Lake County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lake County.


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