Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June 2014 Native Plant of the Month - Iris prismatica

Each year in June there seems to be an abundance of native plants flowering. One of my favorite local natives is Iris prismatica or Slender Blue Flag. I first heard of this plant not by finding it, rather by reading about it in the late Howard Boyd's book, "A Pine Barrens Field Guide". Iris prismatica is one of two local native Irises here in South Jersey, the other being Iris versicolor. Then one day while passing through Galloway TWP, I spotted it in a roadside ditch. It was spectacular, with so many blue-violet blooms. A real show stopper. Naturally, I had to stop and photograph it. Then I returned in a couple weeks for seeds. They were not ready. I waited another two weeks, still nothing. It wasn't until late summer that the seeds were finally ready. I picked two seed pods and sewed them after a six week chill in the fridge. But nothing germinated for me. Thinking they never would germinate I tossed the tray aside and forgot about it. The following spring when cleaning up the nursery area, I was shocked to pick up that tray and find many small single blades emerging from the soil. It was the Iris. I established a home for them in my bog, and each year they spread not only from seed, but by runners. This week they are blooming again, being in full sun, they are looking their best ever.

Iris prismatica, is a local native Iris also known as Slender Blue Flag. It resembles the larger Iris versicolor, but it's more like a mini version, with slender grass-like leaves and more dainty flowers that look somewhat like a Japanese Iris. I have seen Hummingbirds visit almost daily while in flower.

Propagation is easy by seed if you sow outdoors in the fall and look for seedlings in the Spring. They generally bloom the second year. Try this wonderful little plant in one of those moist areas that doesn't drain well and other plants are hard to grow and you will find that this one is easily a star.

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