IRIDACEAE (Iris) - Wildflowers of the Escambia

 

Pointed Blue Eyed Grass
(Sisyrinchium angustifolium)
To lead this glorious parade of Iris is Blue Eyed Grass. It's a roadside plant that mixes with the big stuff but doesn't get lost. In fact, others seem to give way to the brilliant cloud of blue that hangs over the embankment where it naturally builds a large colony. The Latin indi
cates this plant to be small and shallow; small, but far from shallow
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It was given the unseemly name "Pointed" because of a small spur at the tip of each flower petal (easily seen in this photograph). The plant is known to form large colonies when left undisturbed. A smaller related plant that has a fondness for lawns is the White Blue Eyed Grass (S. albidum), which reaches the exalted height of about two inches.
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Southern Blue Flag (Iris virginica)

Dwarf Crested Iris (I. verna)
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Southern Blue Flag is indispensable when preparing a wetland garden. It blooms throughout the month of June and is one of a few of our native plants that will grow with its roots under water. It produces beautiful blossoms as well when growing in arid locations. This iris may reach heights of two to three feet and its violet-blue blossoms are three to five inches across. Propagation is by seed or root division.

The Dwarf Crested Iris is widespread throughout the Escambia region; pine woods, meadows and roadsides. It flowers at the same time of year as violets and early flowering phlox. The Latin describes the plant as being "First, fresh, new; to bloom early." It does all that and more.

Dwarf Crested Iris is the state flower of Tennessee.

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False Garlic (Nothoscordum bivalve)

Purple Flag (I. tridentata)
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False Garlic gives us two flowering seasons; spring and autumn. These are widespread in the Escambia region and are seen in much profusion at roadsides, in yards, pine woods and savannas. The plant has no onion or garlic odor and while it can be eaten safely it would add no real enhancement to the foodstuff. Best to pass it up as a food source. It's extremely difficult to control so transplanting to the flower garden as an ornamental border plant is not encouraged -- it's been there, done that!

Purple Flag has sepals that are as much as three inches long and, as with the Southern Blue Flag, are larger than the petals. The rich color of the flower has much to do with its ease of recognition. Purple Flag is infrequent in the Escambia region but is locally abundant east of the Black Water River. Look for it to flourish in pine flatwoods, ditches, and pond margins. It does extremely well when trans-
planted to the butterfly garden.

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Copper Iris (Iris fulva)

Tough-Leaf Iris (I. tenax)
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The Copper Iris is sometimes called Red Iris. The plant is infrequent in the Escambia region but its habitat says you'll have to get off the major highways to see it. Look to the margin of cypress bogs and where standing water is persistent. Rarely it will be seen at roadside unless the roadway crosses the swamp, such as east of Escambia Bay and into the Santa Rosa Sound area. The plant receives some protection by the state of Mississippi, but that protection is not because the plant is rare or threatened but because of its beauty along I-20 in the upper part of the state.

Tough-Leaf Iris is found in marshy bogs that hover near oxbows and stream banks. Its preferred habitat is considerable distance from seashore. While this striking iris will propagate by seed it is best to take it by root division. Bloom cycles begin in early June. The plant is normally associated with the Midwest, but it has been reported in Mississippi and Louisiana. Florida has several reports of the plant in Walton County and Escambia County.

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Yellow Flag (I. pseudacorus)
Yellow Flag is an Old World iris which has escaped from culti-
vation. It is by far the largest iris in the Escambia region, or any other for that matter. Giant colonies of the plant are know where those in the center of the clump will reach heights of five feet or more. Its preferred habi-
tat is swampy areas and bogs in and around flood zones. Most iris send up a stem bearing one flower; Yellow Flag commonly produces two flowers which combined are over-powering in richness and beauty. These are well worth the effort to trans-
plant to the bog garden or in a moist area that gets plenty of water and sunlight. Be fore-
warned; however, as the plant is known to attract wood ducks and small animals.

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