Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Prairie iris - Iris savannarum


Prairie iris (Iris savannarum) is the most common native iris species in Florida - found nearly statewide except in the western Panhandle counties.  Despite its common nature to Florida, it is quite rare elsewhere and is documented only in a few counties in Georgia and Alabama.  All of our native irises are wetland species and prairie iris is found at the edges of freshwater lakes and streams, often partially submerged in water 6-8 inches deep.  

Prairie iris tends to maintain its succulent sword-like leaves in the southern part of its range, but becomes dormant elsewhere in winter. These leaves eventually reach a mature height of about 2-3 feet by late spring. Irises spread easily by underground almost-woody rhizomes and this species, in particular, forms large colonies over time in suitable habitat.  It, therefore, makes an excellent ground cover for pond and lake edges to reduce erosion and nutrient loading.

The deep-blue flowers are produced on single stalks above the foliage in spring - mostly March-April. The large showy blooms are composed of 3 sepals with a yellowish blaze at their base and three smaller petals above them. The flowers are pollinated mostly by bees. A six-sided seed capsule results after pollination and gives this plant is Latin species name.

Prairie iris is commonly propagated by native-plant nurseries in Florida and are easy to locate. Because this species spreads so easily, only a few will eventually form a large showy mass over a few years. It will do well in sun or partial shade, but it needs to be grown in wet areas that become shallowly inundated during the wet season.

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