Blue Flag Redux


This year my botanical goal was to find and photograph the Blue Flag iris. They are not orchids but they sure are beautiful.  I have missed them for a couple of years and it is time I returned to their splendour in the grass. Well, splendour in the reeds actually. These flowers like to have wet feet.

I actually found and photographed those flowers earlier in the year but my computer program disgorged the images without me knowing it until it was too late. But it was not too late to try again.

I returned to municipal road near Labroquerie Manitoba and found them in abundance. I was well rewarded for my diligence with many  blue flag iris flowers.  This is a stellar place for blue flag iris. I had seen them before here but never like this. I had a great time. Life was good. I even let heretical thoughts enter my mind such as considering that perhaps the lost images were worth the loss! How could that be possible?

I am known as an orchid geek. There is good reason for that. I love orchids, particularly wild orchids. But when it comes to flowers I am promiscuous. Other favourites include cactus flowers, water lilies and others. I particularly like the Blue Flag Iris of Manitoba. It is an outstanding beauty.

Yet one of North America’s greatest naturalists was not bowled over by them. Henry David Thoreau said, “This is a little too showy and gaudy, like some women’s bonnets.” It has to be showy at the time it blooms because in June the competition to attract pollinators is fierce in Manitoba.

The blue stripes against a purple/blue background are thought to provide guidance to potential pollinators.

It is a large flower and hence attracts many visitors.  If you look closely to the flower above you can see an insect that might be a pollinator for Blue Flag iris. Unfortunately, some of the visitors are too small to much good when it comes to propagation. They drink the nectar but provide puny pollination services in return. These insects include butterflies and moths that really are too small to gather or deposit pollen. Thank goodness, as Jack Sanders said in his delightful book, The Secret of Wildflowers, “the iris has plenty of nectar to go around, and perhaps it is no accident that the blue flag iris is a denizen of wet places, swamps and moist fields—making production of large amounts of nectar easy.”

The leaves are nicely designed for life in tightly packed bogs or ditches. The leaves are thin and grass-like allowing sunlight to penetrate through the mass of vegetation., As well, unlike most broad leafed plants, the leaves can assimilate sunlight on both sides and not just the upper. Sometimes it pays to be AC/DC.

Sadly, Blue flag Iris is not as plentiful as it once was because so many wetlands in places like Manitoba have been drained for the “progress” of residential subdivisions and shopping malls. They can however form into impressive colonies. We once had an impressive colony near our cottage at Buffalo Point but it had to give way for the “progress” of a  sewer line for a proposed hotel that never appeared. That phantom hotel was considered  more important than flowers.


Irises like to find a place where their feet can be wet most of the year. The blue flag iris is a stunning flower and even that curmudgeonly Thoreau admitted, “It belongs to the meadow and ornaments it much.” I can’t disagree with that. According to Saunders, “the iris has a lofty and regal history.” American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow could appreciate these flowers for he wrote fondly of the blue flag iris:

Born in the purple, born to joy and pleasance

Thou dost not toil nor spin

But makest glad and radiant with thy presence

The meadow and the lin.


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