Sisyrinchium montanum (Mountain Blue-eyed Grass)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Iridaceae (Iris)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; moist to average sandy fields, meadows, roadsides
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:5 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Bright blue to deep violet, star-like flowers 5/8 to ¾ inch across with 6 tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals all similar), the tips of which are usually notched; a small needle-like projection is at the very tip. A bright spot at the base of each tepal creates a greenish to yellow throat, with a column of bright yellow-tipped stamens in the center. Flowers or borne in groups of 2 to 4, at the tip of a long stalk and enclosed by two narrow leaf-like bracts (spathe).

[photo of spathe] The spathe is typically green like the color of the leaves and stem, sometimes bronze or purplish, with the outer one up to 3 inches long and may be more than twice as long as the inner one. The edges of the outer spathe are joined for up to 1/8 inch at the base. Each flower is on a short slender stalk, with only 1 or 2 flowers open at a time.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are all basal, long and slender, grass-like, generally 5-10 inches long, the largest over 1/10 inch wide with smooth, almost waxy (glaucescent) surfaces and very finely toothed edges (microscope required!). The flowering stems are also flattened, 1/10 to 1/8 inch wide, with a strong central vein and two distinct wings on the sides. The stem also has very finely toothed edges and often twists up to a full turn from base to tip.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] The fruit is a round to oval capsule between 1/8 and ¼ inch long, on a slender stalk and divided into three sections (carpels).


Minnesota has 3 Blue-eyed Grass species with ranges that overlap to a great extent, yet each exhibits a geographic preference. Mountain Blue-eyed Grass predominates in the northern half of Minnesota and is the only species common throughout the north central and north eastern counties. Its habitat preference is from moist to more mesic soils where it can sometimes be found growing side-by-side with Needle-pointed Blue-eyed Grass (S. mucronatum) in the NW Red River Valley. The latter can be distinguished by its more slender form in both leaves and the barely winged stems, as well as round fruits about half the size of S. montanum fruits. The predominantly southern Prairie Blue-eyed Grass (S. campestre) is found on dry, often very sandy prairie soils and is lighter in color, both flower and foliage, with toothless leaves and stems, and its outer spathe is not joined at the base. A fourth species, Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass (S. angustifolium), not seen in Minnesota since 1950 but recently rediscovered near Duluth, is easily distinguished by its multiple, long-stalked flower clusters arising from the spathe. There are 2 varieties of S. montanum: var. crebrum dries to dark brown and its spathe is joined up to ¼ inch, and var. montanum, found in Minnesota, that dries green to olive and has a spathe joined up to 1/8 inch.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and Kittson counties, and in a private garden in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Dorothy - Harris Township, Itasca County
on: 2015-06-11 13:48:09

Found this in a grassy open area on south edge of woods on our farm near Grand Rapids today.

Posted by: Debbie - Duluth
on: 2015-06-20 17:36:07

if it was this flower, I saw 3 small areas of them along our dry, dirt road In Lakewood Township, June 19, 2015. The flowers were not visible June 16th, and are not there today (June 20th) when I went out to take a picture. I had been walking past them quickly on the 19th, and thought it was a single flower on each small stem in a clump of very straight, darker green "grass" looking greenery, about 8" high. Your photos are the only flowers I've found that look anything like the ones I saw. I don't remember seeing them along the road before. This has been a very dry year for the roadway. Thanks !

Posted by: Debbie - Duluth/Lakewood Township MN
on: 2015-06-21 13:36:46

More flowers bloomed today..Father's Day . Individual plants and small groups of them along the dusty road. Rained last night. Took lots of ipad photos..not that great but useable.

Posted by: Shanna S - Lakewood Township, Duluth, MN
on: 2015-06-28 08:09:13

We found this plant growing along our dirt road just northeast of Duluth, MN (Lauren Road). Several plants in multiple locations along at least a 1/2 mile stretch. Identified using Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.

Posted by: Shelley - Hayland Township/Mille Lacs County
on: 2015-07-24 09:50:42

Found this growing in "Martha's meadow" - while living, our neighbor maintained an old field that had never been tilled. Bruce Carlson, MN DNR Ecological Services, visited the site during the Mille Lacs county biological survey and documented this and a few other plants. I have found it on several other local properties since, collected seed and now have it growing on our land.

Posted by: Stephanie - Crow Wing Township
on: 2016-05-20 22:23:33

Found a solitary flower today. Identified using this site. Went back out at 8pm and the flower had closed already. Got a few pictures earlier. Hoping to see more.

Posted by: Donna R. T - Circle Pines
on: 2017-06-02 11:29:38

Growing along the edge of a woodland trail, near wetland. South eastern Anoka County.

Posted by: Donna - Kelly Lake - Hibbing
on: 2017-06-11 06:39:44

Found one patch growing alongside a dirt road near Kelly Lake - 4 miles west of Hibbing. Stunning little plant!

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County
on: 2018-12-30 19:16:19

This species of blue-eyed grass grows in small clumps at the edge of an old field that had once been grazed up until 1950 or so. It has recently begun growing along the edge of my driveway, too.

Posted by: James - Minneapolis
on: 2020-04-11 13:55:18

Got it in tha backyard

Posted by: Tanya Beyer Hovi - Sandy Twp. near Virginia, MN
on: 2021-06-08 10:07:55

On our pasture is a lot of S. montanum, but in one spot along the township road is a more slender version with leaves much shorter than the flowering stems and about 1/10 inch wide. Flowering stems are narrower too. There is not much difference in the flowers' color, but I wish I could determine if by the roadside we've got one patch of S. mucronatum, the needle-tipped species, which I have read is most common in the Red River Valley but does occur here in St. Louis County.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-06-08 10:40:55

Tanya, the distribution map for S. mucronatum shows it has been recorded in St. Louis and Lake counties in the past. Just because there is no record from your specific area doesn't mean it isn't there somewhere.

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