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Grass Widows ~ Wildflowers ~ Purple Eyed Grass


Olsynium douglasii (syn. Sisyrinchium douglasii, Sisyrinchium grandiflorum) is a flowering plant, commonly known as grasswidows,  in the genus Olsynium, native to western North America from southern British Columbia south to northern California, and east to northwest Utah. It is the only species in the genus Olsynium in North America, the remaining 11 species being from South America. It was formerly treated in the related genus Sisyrinchium.

It is a perennial herbaceous bulbiferous plant growing to 10-40 cm tall. The leaves are slender linear, 10-30 cm long and 1.5-3 mm broad. The flowers are bell-shaped, 15-25 mm long, with six purple tepals.

There are two varieties:
Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii. Coastal western North America. Flower filaments with a narrow base.

Olsynium douglasii var. inflatum. Interior western North America. Flower filaments with an inflated base.


Grass Widow (Olsynium douglassii>) is an early-blooming, perennial plant of open woodlands and rocky meadows that are wet in early spring but later dry up.

The satiny, reddish-purple to pinkish-purple flowers are up to about 1.5 in (4 cm) across and the whole plant is less than 12 in (30 cm) tall.

Hundreds of these purple flowers can cover a meadow, creating a beautiful scene as they shimmer in the breeze.

Other common names for this plant are Satin Flower and Douglas’ Blue-Eyed Grass. It has also had a different genus: Sisyrinchium

The species name douglasii honors David Douglas, a botanist who was an early explorer of the Pacific Northwest. You might have heard of Douglas Fir? Well, that was another plant named after David Douglas.

Grass Widow is in the iris family, Iridaceae, which includes only a handful of species in our region. One that is probably familiar to many northwesterners is Oregon Iris(Iris tenax).


The Iris Family in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon and Washington]
Douglas’ Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower


Satin flower, Grass widow; Olsynium douglasii

Grass Widows Gallery




8 responses

  1. They almost look like crocuses don’t they?

    February 15, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    • yes they do, very different flower than blue eyed grass but greenage is about same. interesting and very pretty 🙂 i want some

      February 16, 2015 at 12:39 am

      • Me too! 😉

        February 16, 2015 at 7:26 am

      • 🙂 will let you know if i find some. and i did gather some chickory to get seeds off then i forgot on porch table and they blew away :(. i apologize but with wind blown seeds i should have plenty this year 😀

        February 16, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      • LOL! that’s the kind of thing that I do 😉

        February 16, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      • lol 😀 sister hehe

        February 16, 2015 at 4:27 pm

  2. Stacey

    I managed to get some and they are doing wonderful. I have them in a pot in an empty 40B aquarium with a reptisun 10 bulb on a timer. They were a bit droopy the first day but perked back up by morning.

    April 6, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    • thank you 🙂 i have been out looking for what is coming up here. i see the wild veronica and crocuses so far

      April 6, 2015 at 8:37 pm

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