Yellow Star Grass, Hypoxis hirsuta
A walk through the woods or even your own lawn may reveal these sparkling yellow jewels amid short tufts of deep-green, grass-like foliage. Also known as goldstar and yellow-eyed grass, this petite perennial wildflower rarely grows taller than six inches. At first glance, the plant may appear to be a clump of grass, but from April to May, multiple hairy stems arising from rosettes of basal leaves suddenly come alive with bright little star-shaped flowers. Rarely, the plant may re-bloom until October. Yellow star grass is hardy and adaptable to different conditions, including moist or slightly dry sand, loam, rock, or clay in full or part sun. It spreads non aggressively to form loose colonies through expanding corms and self-seeding. The seeds are tiny and take years to form corms large enough to produce flowers, so separating the small corms that form around the parent plant is the easiest way to propagate yellow star grass. Because of its slow spread, it struggles when planted near aggressive species. Similar to spring beauties, it may spread into lawns if mowing is delayed until late spring.
Formerly in the Liliaceae family, yellow star grass is now in the Hypoxidaceae family. Hypoxis is the largest genus, with most of the 90 species occurring in Africa, where the plants are used in traditional African medicine. H. hirsuta is found widely throughout the eastern US and from the Great Plains down to Texas. This species varies in both the size of the plants and of the flowers. The genus name means “pointed below” in Greek, allegedly referring to the tapered seed pod. Hirsuta refers to the hairy stems and undersides of the leaves and flowers.
Native habitats include moist or dry prairies, hill prairies, edges of bluffs, savannas, open woodlands and paths through woodlands, abandoned fields, and lawns. Use in containers or by patios, in meadows and naturalized areas, on slopes, in woodlands, in rock or pollinator gardens, and in mass plantings.
Grows 3-10” tall.
Grows in full or part sun.
Prefers moist to slightly dry soils with loam, sand, or rocky material.
Blooms April-May with yellow flowers; each is about ¾" across and consists of 6 sepals/petals that are lance shaped and widely spreading. A yellow pistil is surrounded by 6 stamens with golden anthers. Round seed capsules split to release many glossy, black seeds covered with rows of tiny, wart-like projections.
Linear-shaped basal leaves with smooth margins may be erect or reclining and are up to 10" long and ½" wide.
The flowers lack nectar, but their pollen attracts small bees, including little carpenter, mason, and halictid. Syrphid flies and beetles also feed on the pollen. Bobwhites and other birds eat the seeds. Small rodents occasionally eat the corms.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Native Americans used the plant to make a tea to treat heart conditions, and the corm was used to treat ulcers. Cherokees used the plant to treat depression and enhance mood.
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