Sharp-tipped Blue-eyed Grass

Sisyrinchium mucronatum Michx.

Sisyrinchium mucronatum plants
Stephen M. Young

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Iridaceae (Iris Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

The name mucronatum means with a short straight point (Fernald 1970) as is probably in reference to the pointed tips of the petals.

State Ranking Justification

There are 7 known extant populations and about 16 to 18 populations which have not been seen in over 35 years and are considered historical. Ample habitat for this species exists in New York, but New York is close to the northern edge of its range.

Short-term Trends

Two populations that were known extant within the past 20 years were searched for again without success. In both cases more survey work is needed to determine if these populations have become extirpated. Overall, short term trends are not clear.

Long-term Trends

There are at least 16 populations which have not been seen in over 30 years, some of which, have not been seen in over 100 years. Most of these populations have not been searched for recently and therefore, it is difficult to determine their current status. No population is known to have become extirpated. Six out of the 7 known extant populations were first discovered within the past 20 years. These "new" populations were probably overlooked in the past. Also since this species likes early successional habitats it may move around and not stay in one site for too long. The open habitat that this species requires is very abundant and in general should not be a limiting factor for this species in New York. Overall, long term trends are not clear.

Conservation and Management


At the one known maritime grassland population, threats include succession as a result of fire suppression, competition by non-native invasive plants, and horseback riding. Threats at other populations include succession and too frequent or poorly timed mowing.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Habitat where populations occur should be managed to help keep these sites in an early successional stage. Fire might be one means of achieving this goal especially at the populations which occur on maritime grassland. Invasive species should be controlled if they appear to be negatively impacting the populations.

Research Needs

Populations that are only known historically should be surveyed to determine if they are still extant.



In New York, this species occurs in open non-forested habitats that are usually herb-dominated or occasionally shrub and sapling-dominated. This includes fields, hayfields, successional fields, pastures, roadsides, forest edges, and maritime grasslands. It also occurs in ditches and on disturbed soils. The soils vary from quite dry to at least seasonally wet, and may be acidic to calcareous (New York Natural Heritage Program 2008). Prairies, roadsides, moist open woods, rock and sandy open shores (Cholewa and Henderson 2002). Dry fields, roadsides, and open woods (Rhoads and Block 2000). Meadows, fields, open woods (Haines 1998). Meadows, fields, sandy places, and woods (Gleason & Cronquist 1991). Meadows, fields and open woods (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Cropland/field crops
    An agricultural field planted in field crops such as alfalfa, wheat, timothy, and oats. This community includes hayfields that are rotated to pasture.
  • Maritime grassland (guide)
    A grassland community that occurs on rolling outwash plains of the glaciated portion of the Atlantic coastal plain, near the ocean and within the influence of offshore winds and salt spray.
  • Mowed roadside/pathway
    A narrow strip of mowed vegetation along the side of a road, or a mowed pathway through taller vegetation (e.g., meadows, old fields, woodlands, forests), or along utility right-of-way corridors (e.g., power lines, telephone lines, gas pipelines). The vegetation in these mowed strips and paths may be dominated by grasses, sedges, and rushes; or it may be dominated by forbs, vines, and low shrubs that can tolerate infrequent mowing.
  • Pastureland
    Agricultural land permanently maintained (or recently abandoned) as a pasture area for livestock.
  • Successional old field
    A meadow dominated by forbs and grasses that occurs on sites that have been cleared and plowed (for farming or development), and then abandoned or only occasionally mowed.
  • Successional shrubland
    A shrubland that occurs on sites that have been cleared (for farming, logging, development, etc.) or otherwise disturbed. This community has at least 50% cover of shrubs.

Associated Species

  • Andropogon gerardii
  • Carex aurea (golden-fruited sedge)
  • Carex granularis (limestone-meadow sedge)
  • Carex lupulina (hop sedge)
  • Chrysopsis mariana (Maryland golden-aster)
  • Dichanthelium sphaerocarpon (round-fruited rosette grass)
  • Juncus dudleyi (Dudley's rush)
  • Juncus greenei (Greene's rush)
  • Panicum virgatum (switch grass)
  • Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Sisyrinchium angustifolium (narrow-leaved blue-eyed-grass)
  • Sisyrinchium fuscatum (coastal plain blue-eyed-grass)
  • Sisyrinchium montanum (mountain blue-eyed-grass)
  • Solidago altissima
  • Solidago nemoralis


New York State Distribution

This species is known from throughout most of New York excepting the Adirondacks, most of northern New York, and the higher parts of the Catskills (New York Natural Heritage Program 2008).

Global Distribution

This species occurs from Maine west to southern Quebec, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, south to Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota (Cholewa and Henderson 2002).

Identification Comments

General Description

This species is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant in the Iris family. It grows in clumps to 42 cm tall. The stems produce clusters of flowers towards their apices. These flowers have six petals which are dark blue to bluish violet and have yellow bases. The flowers mature into roundish capsules which contain numerous seeds (Cholewa and Henderson 2002).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

This species can be identified when it is in flower or fruit.

Similar Species

Sisyrinchium albidum can be distinguished by the rhipidia (cluster of flowers) occurring in a pair at the summit of the stems. Care needs to be taken in observing this character state. Each rhipidium is subtended by a pair of spathes. A leaf-like bract subtends the two pairs of spathes making it difficult to note that two rhipidia are present. In contrast, S. mucronatum has only one rhipidia with one pair of spathes at the summit of the stems. The spathes are not subtended by a leaf (Cholewa and Henderson 2002).

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, S. atlanticum, and S. fuscatum usually have stems or a majority of stems per plant that branch. This character is best assessed in the field where more than one individual can be observed. Branching happens rapidly, just prior to anthesis, so immature plants may appear unbranched. In contrast, S. mucronatum usually has stems (or most stems) unbranched. All the stems may be branched in occasional plants so, as mentioned above, it is best to asses this character in the field where more than one individual can be observed (Cholewa and Henderson 2002).

Sisyrinchium montanum is the most similar species that occurs in New York. In fact, narrow leaved individuals of S. montanum approach S. mucronatum. Sisyrinchium montanum can be distinguished by its wider ((1.5)2.0-3.7 mm wide), obviously winged stems and spathes that are green to bronze with margins rarely purplish. In contrast S. mucronatum has scarcely winged stems that are narrower (0.9-2.0 mm wide) and spathes that are purplish (or partly purplish) (Cholewa and Henderson 2002).

Best Time to See

The plants are predominately in bloom from late May through most of June. Occasionally plants will be found that are in bloom till as late as mid-July. The fruits begin to form soon after flowering begins in early to mid-June. Fruits predominately last through July although fruits can occasionally be found into September. It is easiest to spot and identify this species when it is in flower and therefore, the best time to survey for this species is from late May through the third week in June.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Sharp-tipped Blue-eyed Grass flowering and fruiting in New York.

Sharp-tipped Blue-eyed Grass Images

Images of Similar Species


Sharp-tipped Blue-eyed Grass
Sisyrinchium mucronatum Michx.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
        • Order Liliales
          • Family Iridaceae (Iris Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Blue-eyed Grass
  • Needle-tipped Blue-eyed-grass

Comments on the Classification

The taxonomy of this species is straightforward although Bicknell (1899a, 1899b) described two additional species (Sisyrinchium intermedium and S. versicolor), both from south of New York, which have now been relegated to synonymy (Cholewa and Henderson 2002). Sisyrinchium mucronatum appears to morphologically approach narrow specimens of S. montanum in the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada (Cholewa and Henderson 2002) but although they may at times appear close, authors (Fernald 1970, Gleason and Cronquist 1991, Kartesz 1994, Haines 1998, Rhoads and Block 2000, Cholewa and Henderson 2002, Weakley 2007) do not lump these two species.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Cholewa, A.F. and D.M. Henderson. 2002. Sisyrinchium Linnaeus. Pages 351-371 in Flora of North America Editorial Committee (Editors), Flora of North America, North of Mexico, Volume 26, Magnoliophyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. Oxford University Press, New York, New York, USA.

Other References

Bicknell, E.P. 1899. Studies in Sisyrinchium - V: two new eastern species. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 26: 496-499.

Bicknell, E.P. 1899. Studies in Sisyrinchium - VI: additional new species from the southern states. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 26: 605-616.

Clemants, Steven and Carol Gracie. 2006. Wildflowers in the Field and Forest. A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. 445 pp.

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Haines, Arthur and Thomas F. Vining. 1998. Flora of Maine. A Manual for Identification of Native and Naturalized Vascular Plants of Maine.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: An Ingenious New Key System for Quick, Positive Field Identification of the Wildflowers, Flowering Shrubs, and Vines of Northeastern and North-Central North America. Little, Brown and Company. Boston.

Rhoads, Ann F. and Timothy A. Block. 2000. The Plants of Pennsylvania, an Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.

Voss, E.G. 1972. Michigan Flora, Part I. Gymnosperms and Monocots. Cranbrook Institute of Science Bulletin 55 and the University of Michigan Herbarium. Ann Arbor. 488 pp.

Weakley, A. S. 2007. Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, and surrounding areas. Working draft of 11 January 2007. University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU), North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Online. Available: (accessed 2007).

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York

Weldy, Troy W. and David Werier. 2005. New York Flora Atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research. University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, NY. Available on the web at (


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: December 29, 2008

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Sisyrinchium mucronatum. Available from: Accessed April 16, 2024.