[The Iris Family East of the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington]

Grass Widow, Purple-eyed Grass, Satin Flower

Olsynium douglasii

Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii ssp. douglasii, Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii

Flower of Grass Widow, Purple-eyed Grass, Satin Flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii ssp. douglasii, Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

Grass Widow: Olsynium douglasii. Note the filament tube, which is narrow at its base, which distinguishes this species from Olsynium inflatum.

Flower of Grass Widow, Purple-eyed Grass, Satin Flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii ssp. douglasii, Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)The photo at right shows a close-up sideview of a grass widow (Olsynium douglasii) as seen in the upper Klickitat River drainage several miles north of Glenwood, WA ..........April 13, 2007.
Characteristics:

Grass widows are beautiful early spring wildflowers to 12 inches tall. The stems arise singly or in small clusters (the clusters up to 6 cm wide), somewhat flattened in cross-section, and bearing 2-4 simple, parallel-veined leaves up to 10 cm long and 1.5-3 mm wide. The 2 bracts of the the terminal spathe which subtend the flowers are unequal in size, one typically shorter than the flowers and one taller than the flowers.

The one to three flowers are deep purplish-red to occasionally white or white with purplish stripes. The six tepals are regular (same shape), expanding to greater than the diameter of a quarter. They are rounded at the tip. This differs from the variety inflatum, which has pointed tips to the tepals. The 3 yellow tipped stamens are shorter than the elongated style, which is 3-pronged at the tip. The filament tube is only slightly enlarged above the base. This differs from its cousin, Olsynium inflatum, which has an enlarged filament tube near the base and pointed tips to the petals.

Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii was discovered near Celilo Falls in 1826 by David Douglas, for which the plant is named.


Habitat:

Dry open rocky areas or meadows which are seasonally wet during the early spring but drying by summer. This plant typically whithers and disappears by mid to late spring.


Range:

The grass widow is found along the eastern slopes of the Cascades from northern Kittitas County, WA south to Wasco County, OR, and through the Willamette Valley west of the Cascades to northern California and northwards to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island..


Use:

I personally think this would make a beautiful meadow plant for naturalized yards to the east of the Cascades, especially if established in dense drifts. In my garden, west of the Cascades, they do not bloom and slowly fade away over a period of years. A few nurseries do sell them, so buy them rather than digging them up.


Grass Widow, Purple-eyed Grass, Satin Flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii ssp. douglasii, Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

The photo above shows a grass widow (Olsynium douglasii) as seen in the upper Klickitat River drainage several miles north of Glenwood, WA..........April 13, 2007.

Paul Slichter