Plant Profile: Blue-Eyed Grass

March 7, 2016

While our welcome winter rains are forecast into March and April, my internal body clock is asking, "Is it spring yet?" From the look of things on Mt. Sutro it sure is. Like the old Johnny Mercer tune states, “Ma Nature’s lyrical with her yearly miracle, spring, spring, spring.” Nothing speaks spring more than one of our cheeriest natives, Sisyrinchium bellum (pronounced si-si-RINK-ee-um BEL-um). Better known as Western Blue-eyed grass, California Blue-eyed grass, or just Blue-eyed grass, this hardy local is now blooming happily in the nursery.

 

Perennial Blue-eyed grass is a member of the Iris family (Iridaceae) and not really a grass at all. Its slender leaves however, give it a grass-like appearance when not in bloom. The pretty blue flowers may also be white or violet and have a yellow “eye” in the center. This yellow corolla gives the plant its colorful name. 
 
Blue-eyed grass can be found as far north as Oregon, west of the Sierra Nevada range, and extending south to Baja. It is widely distributed in California on open, grassy slopes and can grow in sand to clay, coastal bluffs, interior grasslands and redwood forests, among other areas. 
 

The Ohlone Indians reportedly used an infusion of it roots and leaves as a cure for indigestion and stomach pain.
 

The plant is easy to propagate by dividing plantlets away from the parent. It prefers some moisture but will tolerate summer dryness. Once established it can become drought tolerant and self-sows. Blue-eyed grass usually flowers in early spring to late summer. Growing it is an excellent way to introduce native plant life to your garden. Landscaping with native plants helps provide wildlife with food and nesting materials. Blue-eyed grass is also a nectar source for native bees.
 
You can find Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) at the Mt. Sutro Native Plant Nursery. Join us for our Plant Sale and Open House on March 12, 2016 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. 
 
References:
1)  Sisyrinchium bellum. Wikipedia 2016
2)  Blue-Eyed Grass Care: Growing Blue Eyed Grass Wildflower in the Garden. Bonnie Grant. Gardening Know-How – http://www.gardeningknowhow.com
3) Sisyrinchium bellum. Native Plant Database. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 

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