Virginia Iris

This Week for Flora and Fauna Friday we have the crown jewel of the swamp, Virginia Iris (Iris virginica).

Through the columns of Gums and over the foundation of muck a twinkle of violet shifts under the weight of a Darner. Dangling over a palisade of emerald blades a crown of color beckons. Swallowtails and skippers flutter and flee from its fringes amidst the darting strikes of darners and skimmers. Behind the bulwark flies the standards of its colorful comrades, rising above their verdant outpost. An encampment of Virginia Iris in the barren mire of the swamp.

Virginia Iris is a large species of wetland wildflower found throughout our coastal plain. It grows through its roots into spreading clumps, shin-deep in water on the fringes of permanent, shady wetlands. It’s large, flat grassy-leaves reach waist height as they arch upward and outward from the water in overlapping fans. In April they send up stalks to bear their flowers. Palm-sized, six-petalled, multi-colored, double-decker flowers primed in white, painted in violet, accented with saffron, and inlaid with veins of crimson. These flowers act as beacons not only for the curious naturalist but for the wandering insect. Pollinators, still groggy and ravenous from the prior season’s sleep, flock from across the swamp to this chromatic café, some sipping their first nectar for the year.

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