Stems: two-edged, slender, erect, rigid. Leaves: commonly all basal, linear, rigid, almost setaceous, bracts two, very unequal, erect, the lower one twice as long as the upper one. Flowers: six segments of the perianth spreading, aristulate.
" For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, But it withered the grass, And the flower thereof falleth, And the grace of the fashion of it perisheth."
Was it of this tiny yet brilliant purple-blue flower that the Apostle Saint James wrote the above verse? Did he espy it, as he walked abroad, nestling amongst the sedges that fringed the streams? It is a very fragile little blossom, and as it resents being picked to the extent of immediately shrivelling up and dying, travellers had better be content to admire it where it flourishes in the moist low-lying meadows, and refrain from all attempts to gather it. This "little sister of the stately blue Flag" only blooms for a single day, and each morning new buds open to replace the fallen petals of yesterday. Its flowers consist of six translucent purplish-blue segments, veined with a darker hue and tipped by a bristle from a notch. These grow on thread-like stalks between two very long narrow bracts, the lower one of which is usually twice as long as the upper one. In the centre of each blossom is a small patch of yellow, and the style, which is long and protruding, is tipped by a conspicuous three-cleft stigma.
The name Blue-eyed Grass is most appropriate to this plant, for its leaves are certainly quite grass-like, being long and slender, and nearly all spring up from the densely tufted base, together with the stems, which latter are flattened on both sides. The flowers are very like soft purplish-blue eyes with their dilated yellow "pupils," as they " Gently gaze toward the sky, Answering the azure blue on high."
Another poet sings thus of the Blue-eyed Grass: "Blue-eyed grass in the meadow, And yarrow blooms on the hill, Cat-tails that rustle and whisper, And winds that are never still; "Blue-eyed grass in the meadow, A linnet's nest near by, Blackbirds carolling clearly
Somewhere between earth and sky.
"Blue-eyed grass in the meadow, And the laden bee's low hum, Milkweeds all by the roadside, To tell us summer is come."
Sisyrinchium idahoense, or Twisted Blue-eyed Grass, has erect stems which are usually twisted. The leaves are thin and somewhat lax and the spathes are often deflexed long and narrow, the outer one longer than the inner one. The flowers grow on erect stalks and are deep violet-blue with a small yellow eye. The capsule is globose.
Sisyrinchium septentrionale, or Small Blue-eyed Grass, is a low plant growing in small tufts and the leaves are stiff erect and mostly setaceous. The rose-violet flowers are very small and arise from between the short, partly double, spathes and the closely-subtending slenderly prolonged outer bract. The segments of the perianth are acuminate and short-aristate, not retuse.