[The Iris Family in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon and Washington]

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower

Olsynium douglasii

Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: 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.

Characteristics:

The USDA Plants Database now recognizes this plant as Olsynium douglasii. Grass widows are beautiful early spring wildflowers to 12 inches tall. The stems arise singly or in small clusters, somewhat flattened in cross-section, and bearing several simple, parallel-veined leaves. The leaves are as tall as the stem, or often shorter. 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 areas which are seasonally wet during the early spring.


Range:

On 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.

In the Columbia River Gorge, it may be found between 100'-3000' from about Bonneville to the east end of the gorge.


Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii) - A white-flowered form of Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

The "normal" violet-flowered form of grass widow with one which lacks pigment in the tepals several feet away as seen at Catherine Creek in the central Columbia River Gorge................March 3, 2012.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

The photo above shows a close-up of a grass widow as seen on grassy slopes above Washington SR 14 at the east end of Doug's Beach in the mid-Columbia River Gorge...........February 15, 2007. Note again the narrow filament tube, especially at its base, which is a key identifying characteristic of this species.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

Grass widow in bloom along the lower trail at Catherine Creek...................February 4, 2009. Bloom of this species at this location is still very sparse and probably won't peak until late February or early March.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii) - Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

A wind blown, variegated-flower form of grass widow blooming high on benches above Washington Highway 14 above the Balfour Klickitat trailhead near Lyle, Washington...........March 16, 2013.


Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

A white-flowered grass widow blooming on vernally moist benches (with shallow soils) above Washington Highway 14 east of Eightmile Creek in the Columbia Hills State Park...........March 2, 2013. There were also numerous purple and white striped individuals at this location too.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

A very early blooming douglas' grasswidow seen at Catherine Creek, Columbia River Gorge.............January 17, 2010.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

A nice, large cluster of grass widows blooming late in the season at Catherine Creek, Columbia River Gorge..........March 12, 2013.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii) - Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

Grass widows blooming with gold stars (Crocidium multicaule), scale pod (Idahoa scapigera) and spring whitlow-grass (Draba verna) at the crest of north-facing slopes on Chenoweth Table at the western outskirts of The Dalles, Oregon..........March 9, 2013.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii) - Close-up of a flower of Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

Early grass widows blooming near the Memaloose Trail east of Chatfield Hill, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area...........February 17, 2013.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

A variegated form of grass widows as seen along the west rim of Canyon Creek in the Klickitat Wildlife Area.........March 21, 2014.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii) - Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

The photo at left shows some of the last grass widows blooming along the old Chatfield Road west of the Memaloose Rest Area (east bound) on Interstate 84, Columbia River Gorge..........March 23, 2014. The photo at right shows grass widows blooming at Catherine Creek, Columbia River Gorge..........March 12, 2014.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii) - Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii) - Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii) - Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)

Early blooming Douglas' grass widows blooming along Minor Creek at the east side of Catherine Creek, Columbia River Gorge..........February 2, 2014.

Douglas' Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower: Olsynium douglasii (Synonym: Sisyrinchium douglasii var. douglasii)


Paul Slichter