I was so happy to find this years version of one of my favorite wildflowers of spring, the Harlequin Blue Flag. Found on the shore of Jessica Lake, Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba, Canada
Canon EOS 60D; 18-200mm lens
Iris versicolor L.
blue flag, iris, poison flag, larger blueflag, harlequin blueflag; Fr: clajeux, iris sauvage, fleur-de-lis, iris versicolore; Ojibway (Anishinabe): nabagashk, wiikenh, zhaabozigan
Iridaceae – Iris Family
General: A perennial forb of wet habitats with large, showy, purple flowers; plants to 1 m tall, with long narrow leaves and flowering stems arising from a thick rhizome.
Leaves: Basal, simple, smooth (glabrous), parallel-veined. Blades linear-lanceolate to sword-shaped (ensiform), stiff, ascending, to 1 m long, 0.5–3 cm wide; often purplish at the sheathing base, gradually tapering to a sharply pointed (acuminate) tip, margins entire. Leaves arranged in 2 rows (2-ranked), folded lengthwise near the base and equitant – with each leaf base folded around the next younger leaf. Flowering stems bear 1–2 leaves.
Flowers: Bisexual; flowers terminal, solitary or in a few-flowered cyme, each flower subtended by a papery bract; perianth parts united into a short tube, to 1.2 cm long, above the ovary. Sepals 3, obovate, 4–7 cm long, purple to bluish-purple, marked with white towards the base and a yellow, slightly bearded patch, each sepal heavily veined with darker purple and abruptly narrowed to a clawed base; petals 3, oblanceolate, 2–4.5 cm long, purple, erect, alternating with the sepals; stamens 3, situated above the sepals, anthers linear; ovary inferior; the style divided into 3 petal–like branches that arch over the anthers, hiding them from view; a narrow flap of stigmatic tissue is situated near the recurved end of each style branch. Flowers bloom in mid summer.
Fruit: A smooth, 3-chambered capsule, 1.5–6 cm long, green when young, turning brown. Capsules mature in August to September.
Habitat and Range: Marshes, streambanks, wet meadows and shorelines. Iris versicolor is native to northeastern North America, extending from Newfoundland and Labrador west to Manitoba. In Ontario, it occurs as far north as the Fawn River, 54� N, 89� W (Scoggan 1978
Endangered in Canada, especially in Alberta. Only a fraction of the western blue flag’s historic habitat is uncultivated. Other problems include humans trampling and picking the flowers and agricultural herbicide.