Skip to main content

Dwarf Lake Iris

The road less traveled, in this case through a beautiful northern forest near the shore of Lake Huron, in northern Michigan's Presque Isle County. A very special plant is common here, and we were indeed fortunate that our recent birding and botany foray here coincided with peak bloom for this extremely range-restricted species.

In places, Dwarf Lake Iris, Iris lacustris, carpeted the thin limey soil in a riot of purple. This plant is a true showstopper, sure to grab the eye of even the most botanically jaded.

Small wonder the state of Michigan designated this iris as the official state wildflower. A truly sophisticated choice, as not only is this one of the showiest plants in the Great Lakes region, but Michigan also supports the bulk of the total population.

What they lack in stature, Dwarf Lake Iris makes up in beauty. The "Dwarf" in the name is well placed - they only stand six inches or so in height.

It occurs in perhaps a dozen counties in Michigan, all along the shores of lakes Huron and Michigan, and the tiny iris doesn't stray more than a stone's throw from the shoreline. The word lacustris - the specific epithet of the plant's scientific name - means "of lakes". Populations are scattered and local. There are a few populations along the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan, primarily on the Door Peninsula, and perhaps a few sites on the Bruce Peninsula of Ontario, Canada. That's it.

We were especially fortunate to see a small number of a white-flowered form, and they were quite striking. I am hopeful that they come up again next year - I'm sure they will - so that our group can once again admire them.

This is a plant that had long fired my imagination, and was high on my botanical wish list. It was very gratifying to finally get to see Iris lacustris on its home turf - the cool rocky limestone pavements along the wild boggy shoreline of northern Lake Huron.


Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…