Blue Eyed Grass Facts
The genus name for blue-eyed grass (Sorbus) comes from the Greek words “bio” meaning life and “gracchia” meaning hair or beard. There are several species of blue eyed grass.
They range in color from pale green to deep purple, but all have similar characteristics.
They grow wild throughout most of North America except for Alaska and Hawaii where they are restricted to certain areas due to habitat loss.
Their flowers appear in spring and summer. Some species bloom only once while others may bloom multiple times.
Flowers are small, white, and up to 1/2 inch long with five petals. Each flower contains a single yellowish seed pod which usually splits open at night to release pollen grains into the air during the day. The seeds germinate quickly after being exposed to sunlight.
In some cases, blue-eyed grass grows in patches. These patches may overlap each other or they may form isolated plants.
If planted together, these plants will produce a dense carpet of flowers. However, if one patch is removed then another will take its place.
An average blue-eyed grass plant is about 4 to 8 inches tall, but some plants may grow as large as 16 inches. The leaves are oval shaped and measure up to 3/4 of an inch across.
They are covered with tiny hairs. Stems are greenish in color and measure 1 to 3 inches in length.
Flowers contain a single row of eight stamens with white filaments and yellow anthers. The filaments extend into a T shape.
They also contain three styles topped with a yellow stigma.
Blue-eyed grass plants are in the family of plants known as “Irids.” This is because flowers possess a structure which helps them reflect light, helping them to appear blue or purple.
In some species, the petals and sepals are fused together. These plants may also produce a smell which attracts insects such as bees and butterflies.
While blue-eyed grass grows well in many types of soil and moisture conditions, they prefer growing in wooded areas with decaying leaves. They grow best when planted underneath full shade.
During the winter months, the plants go dormant. At this time, you may notice them lean over and lie upon the ground. In some cases, surrounding leaves grow large enough to cover the plant completely during this time. You may also notice that the leaves turn brown or red during this period.
Many animals eat the flowers, seeds, or leaves. These animals include deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and chipmunks.
In some cases, people may also consume the plant as a vegetable, either raw or cooked.
Blue-eyed grass plants can be grown easily from seed. The seeds are extremely small and should be planted in a shallow trench 4 to 5 times their size.
They require light to germinate. When they do, keep the soil moist. When they develop two or three leaves, thin them out to 10 inches apart. This will allow enough space for each plant to grow properly. Blue-eyed grasses prefer growing in full sun to partial shade. They grow best in moist soil and require the soil to be kept evenly moist.
You can also get blue-eyed grass plants from division or transplant. Consult with a local nursery for instructions on how to do this.
These plants are adapted to the following climate zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. They cannot tolerate extreme heat or cold and require a lot of moisture.
They do not require much maintenance except during the winter months when you should keep the soil lightly moist. The leaves may turn brown and die during this time but new ones will grow in spring.
Also, plants should be spaced far enough apart so each one has plenty of room to grow.
The blue-eyed grass is a low-growing plant native to the eastern half of the United States. It has oval leaves and produces lavender to purple flowers with yellow centers from mid-spring through early summer.
The flowers are smaller than the leaves, but their vibrant color makes up for their small size. There is also a subspecies, “S. o. var. nutkaensis,” which grows in Western Washington and Oregon, as well as British Columbia and Alaska. It grows 2 to 5 inches taller than the species, and its leaves generally do not have the wavy edge that the species typically has. Both subspecies are hardy in USDA growing zones 3 through 8.
The plant’s name comes from its bluish color that sometimes appears in the young leaves, but fades as the leaves grow larger.
Both subspecies of blue-eyed grass prefer partial shade and moist soil. They grow best when their roots are shaded and the foliage is in sunlight.
They spread slowly, but sometimes given the right conditions, they will self-seed.
The plant has a long history of use by Native Americans for many purposes. The Ojibwe people used an infusion of the plant to wash wounds, and the Cheyenne people used it for kidney ailments.
In more recent times, it has been investigated as a treatment for cancer.
The plant is rich in flavonoids and has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains saponins, which can affect the heart, and Vitamin C.
The Lakota people used an infusion of the plant to wash wounds. It contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), nicotinic acid, and acetylcholine.
Native Americans also used it for kidney ailments.
Rose family (which includes apples, plums, peaches, apricots, and roses). It is in the same family as ragweed, a common allergy trigger.
“Solidago canadensis”, the goldenrod, has a similar name and appearance. It too is a bright yellow color and grows wild in North America, but it can cause severe allergic reactions, and hence should be avoided.
“Helenium americanum”, the sneezewort, has a similar name and appearance. It too is a bright yellow color, but it is rare and found only in marshes and wet meadows around the Great Lakes.
It too can cause severe allergic reactions, and hence should be avoided.
The blue-eyed grass has no prominent danger besides the potential for an allergic reaction. When this occurs, it is most often because of another plant in the aster family.
The goldenrod, sneezewort and ragweed are common allergens in the fall. The blue-eyed grass is also an allergen, but it rarely causes severe reactions.
Goldenrod, sneezewort and ragweed each only grow for a short time in the fall, while the blue-eyed grass can be found in lawns and fields year-round.
If the blue-eyed grass is found in a more natural setting, such as a meadow or a forest clearing, it can be assumed that it is not the cause of the allergic reaction.
The leaves and stems are harmless if eaten, but care should still be taken to avoid consuming any amount of any unknown plant.
Blue-eyed grass can be used as a decoration, and the leaves can be used to lend a yellow tint to food or drinks. It also makes a good addition to a collection of wildflowers.
Blue-eyed grass is easy to grow as long as it has partial sun and moist soil. It can sometimes be found growing wild in fields or lawns.
If one is not sure of its identity, it should not be gathered.
The blue-eyed grass is a perennial that grows across North America, and there are two known subspecies, “S. lewisii” and “S.
lewisii”. The first has narrow leaves that are around 5 mm wide and the second has broader leaves that are around 2–4 cm wide. The leaves grow from a central point and surround the stalk in a spiral fashion.
The plant is 5–40 cm in height and the stalk is hairless. The stalk is surrounded by either one or two rows of leaves, which are lanceolate and do not clasp the stalk.
The top of the stalk also has a ring of leaves that form a sort of cone. The cone acts to protect the flowers after they bloom.
The flowers are grouped together in a narrow, elongated head (0.8-2.5 cm long and about 1 mm wide).
It has both yellow ray florets and yellow disc florets. The ray florets are 5-angled with a toothed border and the disc florets have five appendages. The flowers bloom from bottom to top and the stamens are in the middle. The fruit is an achene; it has no pappus and is smooth.
The plant grows in damp or dry, nutrient-rich soil, at the borders of forests or in open, lightly shaded areas. It can be found from Nova Scotia, south to Florida and west to Iowa.
The subspecies “S. lewisii” is more common in the Appalachians and the other subspecies is more common further east.
“Silene lewisii” is a common plant that can be found in lawns, fields or meadows. It can act as a parent or sibling to many other wildflowers.
It commonly grows with aster, chicory, goldenrod, ironweed and St John’s wort.
The Ojibwe used an infusion of the entire plant to reduce inflammation. The Potawatomi used an infusion of the entire plant for colds, as a diuretic and for prostate problems.
The Menominee used an infusion of the leaves and stems taken from plants growing in sandy soil as an eyewash. The Navaho chewed a mixture of the leaves with those of “Lithospernum canescens” for stomach aches. The Zuni use the plant to make a love charm and they also mix it with corn pollen and sand, which they then throw over their shoulder to ensure that their lovers will always be faithful.
Sources & references used in this article:
Creating a Wildflower Meadow: Storey’s Country Wisdom Bulletin A-102 by HW Art – 1988 – books.google.com
Prairie communities by RT Robison, DB White – 1987 – conservancy.umn.edu
The New England Wild Flower Society guide to growing and propagating wildflowers of the United States and Canada by W Cullina – 2000 – books.google.com
The natural gardens of North Carolina by FH Bormann, D Balmori, GT Geballe, GT Geballe – 2001 – Yale University Press
Wildflower gardens: 60 spectacular plants and how to grow them in your garden by BW Wells – 2015 – books.google.com