Summer has finally arrived for me when I spot the first tiny blooms of the Blue-eyed Grass sprinkled among the taller grasses of the hayfield. Diminutive members of the iris family, Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium) flowers at the same time as its garden relative. This species is widespread across North America, with several subspecies or varieties occurring, each in a different region. Most have blue or purple flowers, though some are white and in California there is a Golden-Eyed Grass with sunny yellow petals.
The plant grows from a rhizome. It spreads with the copious seeds produced, a favorite food of birds who distribute the seeds far and wide. Blue-eyed grass forms clumps, like garden iris, and is usually a hardy perennial. The seeds or rhizomes can be planted in a rock garden or used as a low border.
The sepals are wider than the petals, creating a distinctive wide-narrow pattern to the bloom. Blue-eyed Grass creates a lovely color show this time of year that can last a month or more. There is a variety named Lucerne, discovered in Switzerland, that has a deep purple flower and is sold commercially.
Blue-eyed grass is named for the long, grass-like leaves. Yet, if you imagine this plant as large as a garden iris, you can tell the leaves are from the same family. The flowers close at night and open with the sun. Sometimes I like to pull a few flower shafts, sliding the full length of the stalk out of the stem base, and bring the blooms in the house. They last several days in a vase set in a sunny window.
Tiny wild bees favor the flowers. You have to look very closely to see these insects at work.