Picture Ohio! – Wild Iris

Yellow Irises in Mist, Cuyahoga Valley NP
Yellow Irises in Mist, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

An early morning mist shrouds tens of thousands of yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) during late May in a marshy section of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeast Ohio. This spectacular display of wildflowers is located a short distance east of Pancake Lock, along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, just north of the Ira Road Parking Area. From Pancake Lock, walk north along the Towpath Trail a few yards to a woodland with a group of spruce trees, and follow a trail through the woodland for a few hundred feet to the marshy area where the main group of iris grow. The best viewpoint is from a high bank at the edge of the marsh. It’s usually very wet here, so wear rubber boots unless you don’t mind wet feet. You will be facing south, so early morning or late evening on a sunny or partly cloudy day provides the best lighting. Misty mornings, which are common in late May and early June when the irises bloom, are an added bonus for photography.

Yellow Iris, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Yellow Iris, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The yellow iris is native to Europe, and was introduced to North America during colonial times. Since then, it has escaped and spread to marshy areas and wet woodlands throughout the eastern United States. Although the yellow iris, also known as the yellow flag, is an alien plant, it brightens the marshes in late spring and is an attractive subject for nature photography. The photo above was taken with a blue sky reflecting in the water behind the flower just after sunrise, providing an attractive, contrasting dark background, a perfect tonal and color complement to the light yellow flowers.  The GPS coordinates for the main group of iris, shown in the top photo, are 41.185555N 81.580013W.

Blue Iris, Erie NWR, PA
Larger Blue Flag, Erie National Wildlife Refuge, Pennsylvania

About 120 miles northeast of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as the crow flies, an equally beautiful display of native larger blue flag (Iris versicolor) flower in a marsh in the Erie National Wildlife Refuge, east of Cambridge Springs in northwest Pennsylvania. The best displays of the blue flag, which blooms around Memorial Day in this area, are along Johnstown Road (SR 1014) and Swamp Road, both reached from SR 408 a few miles east of Cambridge Springs.

Blue Flag Iris, Pemaquid Point, Maine
Blue Flag Iris, Pemaquid Point, Maine

Along the coast of Maine, the blue flag grows in wet depressions in the rocks close to the seashore. The photograph above was taken on the dramatic finger of igneous rock that borders the Atlantic Ocean at Pemaquid Point, below the lighthouse. Wild cliff roses and other photogenic plants  flower here in mid- to late June, and the rock formations have amazing swirls and other patterns, making Pemaquid Point a great place for photography in early summer.

Southern Blue Flag, Volusia County, Florida
Southern Blue Flag, Volusia County, Florida

In Florida and other parts of the southeastern United States, the southern blue flag (Iris Virginica), is the most common wild blue iris.

The showy flowers of the wild iris are bisexual, and the several flowers that may appear on a single flower stalk bloom sequentially rather than all at once. The large, tongue-like sepals exhibit lines which help to attract bees and other pollinating insects. The curved structures that are attached to the sepals contain the female sexual organs of the plant. When an insect laden with pollen squeezes through this entrance, part of the pollen is removed, and the insect also brushes against the pollen-bearing anthers inside the flower. The seeds that are later produced by the plant can float on water, which helps to aid dispersion.

Enjoy these beautiful wild iris for the next few weeks., and don’t forget to take your camera.



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