Sisyrinchium campestre E.P. Bicknell

Prairie Blue-Eyed Grass


CC = 5
CW = 5
MOC = 77

© SRTurner

Family - Iridaceae

Habit - Perennial forb with fibrous roots, lacking rhizomes.

Stems - Ascending to erect, to 45 cm, flattened, 1.0-3.5 mm wide, unbranched, most commonly narrowly winged.

Sisyrinchium_campestre_stem.jpg Stem.

© DETenaglia

Leaves - Basal or nearly so, few, linear, the leaf blades flat, 1.0-3.5 mm wide.

Sisyrinchium_campestre_leaves.jpg Leaves.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Inflorescence 1 per aerial stem, sessile at the stem tip, lacking a subtending leaflike bract. Flowers 2-12, subtended by two spathelike bracts, these 1.3-5.5 cm long, green, sometimes purplish tinged, the outer bract leaflike, 1.5-2.0 times as long as the inner bract.

Sisyrinchium_campestre_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence, subtended by two spathelike bracts (one often much longer than the other, as is the case here). There is only one of these structures at the tip of each aerial stem, and the stem is unbranched.

© SRTurner

Sisyrinchium_campestre_inflorescence3.jpg Inflorescence detail.

© DETenaglia

Sisyrinchium_campestre_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Flowers with stalks 8-18 mm long. Perianth 5-12 mm long, spreading, usually blue but occasionally white or purple, usually with a well-developed yellow "eye" at the base, the sepals and petals similar and fused at the bases, oblanceolate with the tips abruptly narrowed into an attenuate tip, sometimes with the attenuation protruding from an apical notch. Styles with 3 linear lobes. Stamens with the filaments fused to the tips or nearly so.

Sisyrinchium_campestre_flowers3.jpg Flower, lateral view.

© SRTurner

Sisyrinchium_campestre_flowers2.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Sisyrinchium_campestre_flowers.jpg Color variation.

© DETenaglia

Sisyrinchium_campestre_corolla.jpg Corolla.

© SRTurner

Sisyrinchium_campestre_white_flower.jpg White flower.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Capsules 2-6 mm long, globose. Seeds black, globose.

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Prairies, glades, upland forests, pastures, thin soils along railroads.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Other species within the genus.

Other info. - This pretty little species is common throughout most of Missouri. Its U.S. distribution is largely defined by a Midwestern oval "blob" ranging from Minnesota down through Arkansas and Oklahoma. Unlike many other Missouri plants, its range does not extend significantly eastward.

Plants in the genus Sisyrinchium require attention to detail for correct identification. In Missouri species, an important character to note is how many inflorescences there are at the top of each aerial stem, and whether the inflorescences are stalked. In S. campestre there is only one unstalked inflorescence at the tip of each unbranched stem, and it is subtended by two (and only two) spathelike bracts. The flowers are typically blue, most commonly a somewhat paler shade than some of the images above, but the corolla color has no bearing on the species ID. Also, despite the common name, the plant is not at all related to grasses.

Photographs taken in the Piney Creek Wilderness, Barry County, MO., 4-4-04, at Whetstone Conservation Area, Callaway County, MO., 5-4-04, and in Ripley County, MO., 5-14-04 (DETenaglia); also at Valley View Glade Natural Area, Jefferson County, MO, 4-10-2010, and St. Joe State Park, St. Francois County, MO, 5-3-2014 and 4-26-2020 (SRTurner).