Friday, March 27, 2015

Flower Friday: Did you know prairie iris is Florida's most widespread iris?

Iris hexagona (Photo by Jeff Norcini)
Prairie iris (Iris hexagona)

Prairie iris (also known as Dixie iris) is a rhizomatous perennial wildflower. Its showy flowers have 3 petals and 3 sepals. Each petal is bluish to deep purple, narrow and mostly ascending. Sepals are larger than petals (measuring up to 5 inches long), spatulate, downward-arching, and have a yellow to whitish "signal" or crest along their midribs.* They are more recognizable and thus often mistaken for the petals. Leaves are bright green, sword-like and erect, standing up to 3 feet tall and overlapping at their base. Its seed is a 6-angled capsule (hence the scientific name hexagona).

Iris hexagona with different coloring (Photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
Prairie iris blooms in spring. It occurs naturally in swamps, wet prairies and marshes, and along the edges of rivers and ditches. 

Family: Iridaceae (Iris family)
Native range: Central and eastern Panhandle, north and central peninsula
Hardiness: Zones 8a-9b
Soil: Rich, moist to wet soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 3+ feet
Garden tips: Prairie iris is an excellent plant for water features, lake edges and retention ponds. Spring flowers don't last long, but their beauty makes the plant well worth adding to moist garden or landscape. It can be propagated by division and seed.

Mass planting of Iris hexagona (Photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
Prairie iris is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit plantrealflorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where prairie iris occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.

*Coloring can vary greatly among specimens.

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