While walking through grasslands and meadows, you might glimpse a bit of purple-blue almost hidden in the grass. Look closely and you will see a small wildflower, blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum). Although this plant has long, narrow leaves that look grasslike, blue-eyed grass is not a grass at all, but is rather a member of the iris family. Like other members of the iris family, blue-eyed grass has three stamens (male reproductive parts) and an inferior (below the other floral elements) ovary (female reproductive part).
Blue-eyed grass is native to California and Oregon, where it is found.
A perennial, blue-eyed grass grows from a tangle of fibrous roots. The leaves are mostly basal. The blue flower has six petals surrounding a yellow center and protrudes from two protective bracts. The tiny flowers appear as little eyes peering from the surrounding grass, hence the common name. The black seeds are contained in spherical capsules.
Occasionally white blue-eyed grass flowers appear. One gene that makes the flowers purple-blue mutates to a form that prevents pigment formation, resulting in white blossoms. I personally do not recall ever seeing a white specimen.
The genus name, Sisyrinchium, derives from the Greek “sisyra”, a cloak of shaggy goat skin. This refers to the fibrous roots, or in some other members of the genus, to the thick coarse fibers surrounding the corm or bulb.
I know of no culinary or medicinal applications for blue-eyed grass. Its only “use” is to add a bit of color to late summer grasslands.
These blue-eyed grass specimens were growing in a meadow near Ash Creek (Lassen County CA).