Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Iris reticulata

When most people think of the Iris, they probably think of the flags (Iris pseudacorus) that grow in bogs, or the simple Iris siberia that is often seen as a cut flower in florists and delis.

Less common is the dwarf iris, Iris reticulata.

Unlike the other species of Iris I mentioned - which spread via underground rhizomes, this one grows as bulb, much like snowdrop or Lycoris.

It's the earliest of the iris and I am always surprised at how prevalent it is in New York. I have seen it at Liz Christy, in Washington Square Park and in planters all around the NYU campus. Someone responsible for the greenspaces at NYU clearly had a weakness for this plant.

And who can blame them? Though diminutive, and probably overlooked at first glance as another crocus, it's a sweet flower and always a bit of a discovery when found in the city.

Reticulata refers to the ridged quality of the leaves. Like all irises, this plant has six modified petals. The bottom three (the ones with the yellow markings that essentially function as runway lights for pollinators) are called falls. The top three are called standards.

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