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Manitoba Museum

Iris (Iridaceae)

Blue-eyed Grass

Sisyrinchium montanum Greene

The flowers of this tufted perennial are blue with yellow centres, open early in the morning and close by midday. They attract early flying pollinators such as bees, flies, and butterflies. Plants are adapted to many soil and moisture conditions, but their prairie habitat is unusual because most Irises prefer wetlands. They often grow in places with little competition from other plants. Blue-eyed Grass has been used for medicinal purposes.

Flower Colour:

  • Purple

Flowering Season:

  • Spring
  • Summer

Flowering Months:

  • July
  • June
  • May

Canadian Rarity Status:

Not rare. Listed as “sensitive” in the Yukon.

Physical Appearance:

The flat and winged, unbranched stems grow 10-50 cm tall. Leaves are narrow and grass-like, with smooth to finely toothed edges and pointed tips. They occur basally and at the nodes. Nodding flowers occur on a stalk, in clusters of 1-6. Each one has six rounded tepals with notched and pointed tips, two unequal bracts, and distinctive yellow anthers. Fruits are egg to globe-shaped capsules containing numerous black seeds.

Similar Species:

Slender Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium mucronatum)

Gardening Notes:

Seeds and/or plants are often available from greenhouses and seed supply companies specializing in native plants. Plants are a good addition to prairie or rock gardens and grow easily from seed.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland/Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie


  • Alvars
  • Forest Edges
  • Open Woodlands
  • Prairies
  • River Valleys

Moisture Conditions:

  • Dry
  • Moderate
  • Moist
  • Wet

Light Preference:

  • Full Sun
  • Part Shade
  • Shade

Soil Preference:

  • Loam
  • Sand
Blue-eyed Grass