Iris lacustris by Bradford Slaughter
Some of you know that my mother Jill suffered for years from the terrifying effects of Alzheimers disease, ultimately passing last winter. June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, and the Alzheimer’s Association encourages us to wear purple (and of course donate) to raise awareness about a disease that afflicts tens of millions of Americans.
June is also when you can see Michigan’s official State Wildflower, the Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris), in bloom:
The official wildflower of the Great Lakes State is right at home anywhere it can get its feet wet along the rocky coast of Northern Lake Huron, but those places are getting harder to come by.
This pint-sized perennial is known for its deep blue flowers that emerge mere inches above the ground for a fleeting few weeks in May and June—individual blossoms last just days. The rest of the time, its yellow-green leaves cling close to the ground, hiding in plain sight until springtime comes around again.
It’s a bit of a miracle this fragile flower exists at all: They grow in the thin, nutrient-poor soil that overlays limestone gravel and bedrock. The Northeast Michigan coast, rich with sand dunes and limestone deposits, creates the perfect habitat for the iris, found nowhere else outside the northern Great Lakes.
Along with a limited range that’s shrinking due to lakeshore development, the plant has been sought out by collectors who replant or sell it elsewhere. For these reasons, the dwarf lake iris was added in 1988 to the list of federally threatened species.
Read on for more at Huron Pines & for sure check out their Dwarf Lake Iris Best Practice Guide for tips on how to protect this flower!
Coincidentally, Bradford took this photo at Beavertail Point Nature Sanctuary on the northern coast of Lake Huron eight years ago on June 2nd, 2014 so I guess it’s a #TBT to boot! See more in his Iridaceae (Iris Family) gallery on Flickr