Grass Widows Seeds (Olsynium douglasii)
Possibly the earliest blooming meadow wildflower in the west, grass widows shows up in early spring, when the weather is still blustery and cold. It appears like some work of magic from normally short, thin, unnoticeable, grass-like foliage to produce vibrant clusters of purple, red, or pink flowers that only each only last for a couple of days.
Almost immediately after you see them, the flowers are gone. Unless you took a picture, you might wonder if they really were ever there. It's remarkable to imagine the earliest-emerging Andrena or Colletes mining bees arriving to visit these brief flowering apparitions, although they're likely also visited by cold and hungry flies of various species .
Formerly classified as a species of blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.), this is the only member of its newly-assigned genus that is native to North America, with all of its 11-relative species all found only in South America -- including on desolate and lonely ocean islands in the Southern Hemisphere.
Our grass widows are short plants, never more than 8 to 12 inches high, and they occur from coastal British Columbia to California, and inland to Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. You can sometimes find it growing in rocky locations that are wet early in the year, but which dry out in summer. We know of them to appear west of the Cascades on coastal bluffs and in oak savannas. Inland they can appear on steep, rocky hills in the Columbia gorge or among ponderosa pines.
Despite the showy flowers, these are slow growing plants. Eventually they produce fibrous roots and rhizomes from clumping stems that can be divided to make more plants.
Grass widows seeds need to be started outside in the Fall. We plant these seeds in deep trays or containers, with the seed just barely covered. They will need extended exposure to cold weather and moisture before germination will occur (which usually happens the following spring). We recommend keeping young grass widows plants in containers for two growing seasons before transplanting, and giving them shade and minimal water in the summer (just enough water to keep from totally drying out).
This is an excellent plant for rock gardens, and possibly even green roofs with adequate soil depths of at least 6 inches. Despite being a member of the Iris family (which herbivores typically avoid) this plant is sometimes susceptible to deer browsing.
0.3 grams (Approximately 50 seeds).