Sisyrinchium sarmentosum

Common Names:
pale blue-eyed grass
Suksdorf ex Greene
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank & Plant Conservation Programs
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The conservation of Sisyrinchium sarmentosum is fully sponsored.
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D. contributed to this Plant Profile.


Contrary to what its common name suggests, the pale blue-eyed grass is not a grass at all. Although its narrow, flat leaves are grass-like, it is a member of the Iris family. Its pale blue (or occasionally white) flowers betray its familial relationship and allow the keen observer to distinguish it from closely related plants, such as Sisyrinchium idahoense and S. angustifolium.

William Suksdorf collected specimens of this plant from the southern Washington Cascade Mountains in 1893. For nearly a century following his collection, little attention was paid to the two dozen populations of pale blue-eyed grass in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Douglass Henderson's genetic research in the 1970's indicated that this is a "good" species (in other words, it is genetically and morphologically unique enough to be considered a separate species). This status, as well as its small populations and limited range, contributed to its listing as a Federal Species of Concern.

The U.S. Forest Service and The Berry Botanic Garden have worked together since 1995 to study pale blue-eyed grass, focusing on the impacts of cattle grazing and noxious weeds in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington. We have learned that cattle seek out this plant and eat the leaves, flowers and fruits, virtually eliminating seed production even when only "lightly grazed" (25 head of cattle at the site, grazing for three months). When under this stress, plants reproduce through the production of rhizomes and are able to persist. Under these conditions, however, there is little opportunity to increase genetic variability and a large population of clones will not ensure the survival of the species, as they will be ill equipped to adapt to changing conditions.

Other threats to this lovely plant include sheep and other domestic livestock grazing, changes in hydrology (especially changes resulting from road building and other human activities), recreation (camping and off-road vehicle use), and interspecific competition (including natural succession).

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research