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 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.
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.
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 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).
-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.
- -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.
-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.