The Western Blue Flag (Iris missouriensis)
Yes, even flowers can be endangered! This flower is commonly called "Wild Iris". The following information speaks to the threats to this lovely flower in Alberta, Canada. For informaiton about the status of the plant elsewhere, you'll have to search. Use the terms "western blue flag" and "blue flag" and "wild iris" and "Iris missouriensis."
Status: Surveys in the late 1980s found only six populations of western blue flag, with a total of fewer than 7,500 stems. It is considered rare and potentially endangered in Alberta.
Habitat: Moist meadows and stream banks that are wet early in the spring but often dry later in the summer.
Reproduction: The western blue flag is a long-lived perennial with a thick, underground rootstock which enables populations to maintain themselves over long periods of time. The rootstock allows the plant to withstand heavy trampling and to spread quickly when competition from other plants is reduced.
The flowers are cross-pollinated by insects, usually bees. Seeds are released when a seed capsule opens and is shaken by the wind or passing animals.
Human use: The Alberta Native Plant Council, a conservation group dedicated to protecting our native vegetation, chose the western blue flag as its emblem.
Aboriginal peoples have used the western blue flag for medicinal purposes. The rootstock was added to a smoking mixture to induce nausea or chewed raw to relieve headaches.
Risk factors: 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.
Management and Outlook: A western blue flag population south of Lethbridge in Police Outpost provincial park is carefully monitored and protected.
Landowners with the flower on their property can help by maintaining water levels in small creeks and meadows, restricting human and livestock traffic, and refraining from cultivation or herbicide use in those areas.
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