The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 2, 2006


Biodiversity Corner Blue-eyed grass

Photo by Kay Fairweather

Name: The common blue-eyed grass is Sisyrinchium montanum. It is a native plant. The genus name is pronounced sis-uh-RINK-ee-um. The common name is a bit misleading since the flowers have a yellow eye. Nor is it a true grass — it is a member of the iris family — but it is a monocot and as such is related to grasses and sedges.

When and where seen: On May 29, the blue-eyed grass was flowering by the side of the road at the Maple Street bridge and in the Greenough Land at the edge of the meadow. I have seen it other years in the Towle Field. I first found it years ago growing as a volunteer in the middle of my neighbor's lawn. They let me collect it and move it to my garden. It is a perennial, but it also propagates easily from seed and turns up each year in new places.

Identification: The flowers are blue and less than an inch across. A single stalk may bear up to four flowers each with three petals and three sepals all tipped with a little point. The petals and sepals look so much alike that the flowers appear to have six petals. The leaves are slender, iris-like and grow to a foot tall. The seed capsules are round and have three cells. The common blue-eyed grass is differentiated from other members of the genus by the shorter flower stalk and the pointy bract that extends over the top of the flower cluster.

Cultivation: Blue-eyed grass is a charming addition to a small-scale rock garden or light shade border. When not flowering, the tufts of bluish-green leaves make a nice foliage contrast to roundish-leaved plants. It likes rich soil, good drainage, and some sun but does best with not more than three or four hours of sun per day. A very close relative, the stout-leaved blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is available from Blanchette Gardens on Rutland Street, and it's an easy one to grow. If you take delight in some of the smaller native plants, treat yourself.

References: Carol H. Woodward and H. W. Rickett, New York Botanical Garden's Field Guide to Common Wildflowers of the Northeastern United States; Lawrence Newcomb, Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.

TURTLE WATCH. Turtles are on the move, crossing roads and looking for places to lay their eggs. Keep an eye out for them and drive around those lumps on the road. On May 28, Joy Reo found this little snapping turtle, that could fit in the palm of her hand, crossing School Street. (Photo by Kay Fairweather)

ROBIN'S NEST. This nest is in a bush under a window at the Beakley house on West Street, providing an easy observation point for the family.(Photo by Jonathan Beakley)

Submissions for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged from everyone. Tell me what you are seeing, send me photos, or write the column. Send to Kay Fairweather at

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito