Blue Flag Iris

2016 October 15

June 26, 2016 was a beautiful day, so we took the kids and Granny down to the Nara Nature Trail, which runs alongside the wetlands at the mouth of the Pilgrim River, just east of town[1]. The first photo-worthy plant[2] that we saw was this clump of blue irises:


The blossoms are large and colorful, although not as large as domesticated irises.


The blossom structure is fairly complex, it appears to be divided into three parts, each of which has its own little recess where, presumably, the pollen-producing anthers are located. The patterning on the petal looks like it is designed as a sort of insect landing strip, guiding bees and flies into the business end of the flower.


Anyway, this is an easy ID: Blue Flag irises, Iris versicolor. They range from a light bluish-purple, like these, all the way to a rich, deep purple. This is a very common flower in streams and wetlands, particularly in the eastern half of the US and Canada. The plants grow from thick rhizomes in wet soil. While the rhizomes are big and look like they could be edible, do not under any circumstances eat them! They are quite toxic, and their sap can cause skin irritation in some people, kind of like poison ivy does.

Unlike a lot of the showier flowers around here, this is a very much native species, not an invasive. That makes a nice change, anyway.

[1] This is a nice trail in general, and its best feature is that it has a boardwalk, making it accessible with Granny’s wheelchair.


[2] I’m going to be posting a number of the interesting plants from this little jaunt in later postings.

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