Golden-eyed Grass

Driving past the Griffin Pub on Kilmorley Road in Comox, British Columbia, you probably wouldn’t think to stop and take a look in the ditch. Odds are you’d be thinking about reaching more well known destinations like Air Force Beach or Kin Beach. Both of the latter are excellent for botanizing – Kin Beach is superb for Gold Star in the early spring, and Air Force Beach has a very interesting dune ecosystem.

So why pull over and poke around in the ditch?

Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum)
Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum) – a very good reason to pull over and look in the ditch!

A conversation that Jocie had with one of the members of the botany group of the Comox Valley Naturalist Society this weekend identified the ditch as a good location in the Comox Valley to see Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium califoricum). I had seen Blue-eyed Grass (S. idahoense var. macounii) in bloom for the first time last year out at South Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, but had never seen this other member of the Iris family (Iridaceae).

I was pretty excited for a chance at seeing this plant, since this location is the northernmost place on Vancouver Island to see it.

Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum) Range Map
Range map for Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum) in British Columbia (Source: http://eflora.bc.ca)

Knowing from previous experience with Blue-eyed Grass, a sunny day was probably necessary to see the flower open. After several damp, gray days this weekend, the skies cleared on Monday afternoon and the search was on. I parked a little ways down from the pub (in front of Gate B) and walked back toward it, scanning the ditch on the side of the road that borders 19 Wing Comox for small yellow flowers. After a few red herrings (buttercup is plentiful in the ditch), I started to find small clumps of the iris in bloom the closer to the pub I got.

Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum)
Note the leaf-like bracts below the flowers and the flattened stem – both are characteristics of this species of Iris.

It truly is a beautiful little plant – the flowers are a bright yellow above two large leaf-like bracts. The flattened blade-like leaves and stems have a bluish hue to them depending on the light. Pojar and MacKinnon’s Plants of Coastal British Columbia states that the flowers are typically open in the morning, but I guess with the stretch of wet weather these flowers were taking as much sun as they could. I couldn’t smell any fragrance, only the wet mud of the ditch, so these flowers are probably best appreciated visually!

Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum)
Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum) is definitely worth getting a little muddy to see. Look for it in wet places on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

If you happen to be having a pint at the Griffin, or heading to Kin Beach or Air Force Beach this week, why not take a short walk down the Kilmorley Road and look for this beautiful plant. It’s definitely worth the effort!

Getting There:

Use the Google Map below to locate the Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum) in the Comox Valley. There’s also a patch growing near the recreation center on Little River Road.

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