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Archive for the ‘Family: Iris’ Category

In late May, while walking around the Hartford Reservoir in Connecticut, I saw these wild Irises growing by the edge of the water. I was pleased to find them in the wild, as I usually see their cultivated cousins in gardens. The name “Iris” in Greek means “rainbow”, referring to the flowers many colors.

Blue Flag, West Hartford, CT in late May

Found in May through July in marshes and wet meadows, the Blue Flag grows 2 to 3 feet tall and its showy blue petals wave like a flag with white and yellow and deep purple veins.

Blue Flag, West Hartford, CT in late May

I enjoyed the description of this wildflower in “Wild Flowers Worth Knowing”, a book that was written in the early 1900’s and now available online. Read the section on the Blue Flag here, especially the description of how the veins and petal formation guide bees to the nectar, leading to pollination. Also, the name fleur-de-lis isn’t very often used for this flower, but this hundred-year-old book lists it as a name and describes the origin of the name.  “The fleur-de-lys, which is the flower of chivalry,” says Ruskin, “has a sword for its leaf and a lily for its heart.”

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This small flower has an appropriate name: it looks like grass until you notice the little blue flowers, like eyes. There are 9 species of blue-eyed grasses in the Northeast United States – this one is Sisyrinchium montanum. This species has no stems branched and broader leaves (1/3 in.)  whereas other species have much thinner leaves and/or have some stems branched. They can vary from 4 to 24 inches high and grow in meadows and on shores. These species may cross with each other, though, so this might be a mix of a few (such as S. angustifolium).

Blue-Eyed Grass, West Hartford, CT in May

All blue-eyed grasses are stiff and grass-like with 6 petals, each with a small point at the end. It struck me how beautiful the yellow center was contrasted against the blue. I love flowers like this – ones that you might miss if you walk too quickly but once you take the time to really observe its careful details, it is just as beautiful as the showy plants you can buy in the store.

Blue-Eyed Grass, West Hartford, CT in May

I spotted this flower while walking around the Hartford Reservoir in Connecticut in late May.

Blue-Eyed Grass, West Hartford, CT in May

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Yet another sign that spring is on its way (slowly but surely) is when crocuses (or ‘croci’ if you prefer) begin to bloom.  In Stockholm, these are far more widespread than buttercups and are purple, white and yellow.  You can’t help but smile when you come across a splash of purple in a spot that was just grass a few days before.  So far, Stockholm’s spring is slow in getting here but all in all, very much like Boston’s.  Crocuses and snowdrops have taken center stage.

Crocuses are not native to Sweden.  They come from Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and China.  The first crocus was probably brought to the Netherlands in the 16th century; from there it was cultivated and now crocuses are everywhere.  The 80 species of crocus are members of the Iris (Iridaceae) family.  A new fact I uncovered today: saffron comes from the stigmas and styles of the Crocus sativus, a fall-blooming crocus.  The most common crocus, probably the ones I found here in Stockholm, are Crocus vernus (purple and white) and Crocus flavus (yellow).

A quick google search shows that people all over the world seem to light up at the sight of the first crocuses and they need to shout “spring” from every rooftop.  There is something about spring that must trigger some innate human reaction, and I certainly feel it in my bones.

Everything is born again and hope arrives on purple petals.

Crocuses (krokusar), Stockholm, Sweden

Crocus (krokus), Stockholm, Sweden

Crocus (krokus), Stockholm, Sweden

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson

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