Xyris torta (Twisted Yellow-eyed Grass)

Plant Info
Also known as: Slender Yellow-eyed Grass
Family:Xyridaceae (Yellow-eyed Grass)
Life cycle:short-lived perennial
  • State Endangered
Habitat:sun; wet sandy or peaty soil; bogs, fens, shores, peatlands
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:6 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 3-petals Cluster type: round Cluster type: spike

[photo of flower and bracts] A single round to cylindric flower head 3/8 to 1 inch long at the tip of the stem, with several to many brown, appressed, scale-like bracts spiraling around the head and a single flower emerging from the axil of each bract, though typically only 1 or 2 flowers are open at a time. Flowers are yellow, about ¼ inch across, with 3 petals slightly ragged at the tips. In the center are 3 erect, fertile, yellow stamens and 3 hairy, sterile stamens. 3 sepals are usually hidden by the bracts.

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

[photo of twisted leaves] Leaves are basal, 8 to 20 inches long, less than ¼ inch wide, grass-like, toothless, hairless, erect to ascending and spirally twisted. Leaf bases are often red to pinkish.

[photo of bulbous base] Flowering stems are erect, single or multiple from the base, ribbed, hairless, spirally twisted, swollen and nearly black at the base.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of developing seedhead] The floral bracts persist, forming a seed head and expanding as fruit matures.

[photo of seed] Fruit is an elliptic, translucent seed about .5 mm long.


Twisted Yellow-eyed Grass is one of two Xyris species in Minnesota, both of which are rare, but their ranges are not known to overlap so location is an aid to identification. X. torta is found within the Anoka Sandplain in wet, sandy or peaty meadows, swales and shores. According to the DNR, it was first recorded in Hennepin County in 1889 but never rediscovered there; all subsequent records are from Anoka County. It was listed as a Threatened species in 1984 due to its few locations and specialized habitat and elevated to Endangered in 1996. Habitat destruction from development has been its greatest threat, along with invasive species such as Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) that threaten to consume wetlands across Minnesota. The other Xyris species, Northern Yellow-eyed Grass (X. montana), is distinguished by its smaller size (12 inches tall or less), leaves that are not (much) twisted, lack of a bulbous base on the stem, and locations in our northern counties.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.


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