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

Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass

Olsynium inflatum

Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum

Flower of Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

The photo above shows a close-up view of the corolla of grass widow as seen from atop Steptoe Butte in the Palouse country of eastern Washington..........May 1, 2006. Note the inflated base to the filament tube, a diagnostic characteristic of this species.

The photo at right shows a close-up sideview of the corolla of grass widow as seen from atop Steptoe Butte in the Palouse country of eastern Washington.........May 1, 2006. Note the whitish, 3-lobed stigma.
Characteristics:

The USDA Plants Database now recognizes this plant as Olsynium inflatum.

The grass widows are beautiful early spring wildflowers. Frequently, they are among the first native flowers to bloom. It forms clusters (up to 6 cm wide) of grass-like leaves which are shorter than the stems. The stems bear 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 flower stems arise from 15-40 cm high, and are topped by 3-4 pale purple, blue, pink or white flowers. The petals are narrow and pointed. The stamens are yellow and the filament tube is strongly inflated just above its base (see photos above and below). They differ from their cousin Olsynium douglasii in having the inflated filament, wide-spreading tepals (See photos.) and pointed tips to the tepals.


Habitat:

This grass widow is found in dry open areas which are seasonally wet during the early spring. It may be bound in grassy areas in the sagebrush or sagebrush-juniper lowlands, within grasslands, and within open areas in the ponderosa pine forest.


Range:

Olsynium inflatum may be found on the east side of the Cascade Mts. from south-central British Columbia south to California, and east to Idaho and northern Utah.


Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

Grass widows blooming near the summit of Kamiak Butte, Kamiak Butte County Park, Whitman County, Washington..........April 29, 2013.

Flower of Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

The photo at left shows a close-up of the corolla of grass widow (O. inflatum) as seen from the top of the Dalles Mt. Road in the Columbia Hills, Columbia River Gorge..........April 9, 2006. Note the inflated base to the filament tube in both photos. The photo at right shows a close-up of the flower of grass widow (O. inflatum) as observed on scablands along Forest Road 4240 about a mile south of Lame Dog Creek, Ochoco National Forest.......April 26, 2018.

Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

Grass widows as seen in vernally moist scablands with sagebrush buttercups (Ranunculus glaberrimus) just north of the junction of Forest Roads 22 and 4210, Ochoco National Forest.........May 10, 2017. Note some of the individual plants have creamy tepals, unusual for var. inflatum (at least in my experience).

Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Flower of Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

The photo at left shows grass widows (Olsynium inflatum) as seen at Cowiche Canyon, several miles west of Yakima, WA.........March 28, 2007. The photo at right shows a grass widow as seen from along Oregon Highway 218 about one mile south of Shaniko, Oregon........March 10, 2015.

Underside of the tepals of Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

Aditional close-ups of the flowers of grass widows as seen at about 5600' along a spur road of FS Road 5401-811, on the northern approach to Baldy Mountain, Malheur National Forest.........June 3, 2011.

Flower of Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Flower of Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

Close-up views ofthe flowers of grass widow as seen at Cowiche Canyon, to the west of Yakima, WA.........March 28, 2007. The inflated base of the filament tube can be seen here.

Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

Grass widows as seen along Forest Road 4215 about 1.5 miles south of the junction with Forest Road 42, Ochoco National Forest.........May 9, 2017.

Flower of Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

Grass widows seen in scablands near the junction of FS Roads #42 and #300, Ochoco National Forest and adjacent BLM lands..........April 30, 2016.

Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

A grass widow blooming at left atop Bickleton Ridge in the Bickleton Ridge Unit of the Klickitat Wildlife Area..........May 7, 2017.The photo at right shows an unusual white-tepaled form of grass widow as seen on scablands in the Bickleton Ridge Unit of the Klickitat Wildlife Area..........April 20, 2018.

Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum) - Grass Widow, Grass Widows, Inflated Purple-eyed Grass, Purple-eyed Grass: Olsynium inflatum  (Synonyms: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. inflatum, Sisyrinchium inflatum)

A few late-blooming grass widows (with crab spider) were spotted along the Headquarters and Stubblefield Trails, Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge......May 8, 2019.

Paul Slichter