Yellow Star Grass

Hypoxis hirsuta

yellow_star_grass_4-2-12.jpg

Photo of yellow star grass plant with flowers
Julianna Schroeder
Family

Liliaceae (lilies); sometimes placed in the Hypoxicaceae or the Amaryllidaceae

Description

Flowers 1–6 on a hairy stem, often blooming very close to the ground. Flowers have 3 sepals and 3 petals, which all look alike and are bright yellow above, greenish yellow and hairy below. Blooms April-May; rarely reblooms through summer until October. Leaves grasslike, basal, typically 6 inches long. Rootstock a corm. This species is quite variable in both the size of the plants and the size of the flowers.

Size

Height: to 6 inches.

Habitat and conservation

Occurs on acid soils of moist or dry prairies, meadows, glades, exposed bluff tops, dry open woods, and old fields.

image of Yellow Star Grass Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide; apparently absent from the southeastern lowlands.

Status

Also called common goldstar, common star-grass, and other such names. Botanists have long been debating the relationships among the plants traditionally considered lilies. In light of new molecular evidence, it is likely this plant will be placed in a family called the Hypoxidaceae, named for its genus. In the past, some botanists have put it in the Amaryllidaceae, the amaryllis family. A more conservative approach keeps it in the lily family, the Liliaceae.

Human connections

This little flower grows throughout the tallgrass prairie region, from Illinois to eastern parts of Manitoba and the Dakotas, and south to eastern Oklahoma. Imagine the thoughts of pioneers when they gazed upon these bright lilies during stops along their westward journey!

Ecosystem connections

Bobwhite, and probably other birds as well as mammals, eat the seeds.