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
Grass Widows Gallery