Tuesday, May 26, 2009

RIVER GIFT

There are many rewards to a riverside life, not the least of which are those small gifts the river occasionally washes up and deposits along its banks seemingly for no better reason than your consideration and pleasure. The latest offering is a beautiful purple-blue iris…and both it’s origin and name are currently something of a mystery. The little iris is located on a portion of riverbank near the downstream end of the property. The stone-littered bank here is underlined with a mix of sand and mud. It’s shaded by a clump of sycamore with four separate boles—each trunk being a couple feet in diameter. Throughout the winter and spring, the location where the wildflower is growing is often flooded under several feet of water for days at a time. Moreover, the river keeps this portion of bank below the sycamores fairly scoured out—which is why there’s nothing much in the way of greenery growing there other than an aquatic weed or two and a couple of tiny willows trying to gain a foothold. I often carefully negotiate my way down the rocky near-vertical bankside to where the angle flattens out, providing a narrow, rocky shelf smack at the water’s edge where I can stand comfortably and cast to the waist-deep channel for rock bass and smallmouth. That’s what I was doing a few days ago—fishing—when I first saw the iris. At that time, the plant's showy blooms hadn’t yet opened. The iris finally bloomed today. The blossoms, which are smaller across than my hand, are a deep purple-blue; the leaves are quite narrow. The plant is not much over a foot tall. It is altogether striking, as pretty an iris as I’ve ever found. And therein lies the twofold mystery. First off, how did the plant get here? I’ve been here three years—having moved in during June of ’06. It’s possible that I would have been a little late to witness the plant’s blooming that first year…but not the following spring, nor last spring. As I said, I regularly use this area as a fishing spot. It’s inconceivable to me I could have frequented this rocky pocket that's so otherwise barren of plants—and certainly wildflowers—and not noticed something this eye-catching and lovely. Nope, I’m convinced the plant has never bloomed here in the time I’ve called this riverside home. The only thing I can think is that when it came time to bloom those other years, the iris might have been underwater during a periodic springtime flood, and simply didn’t put out flowers that spring. I don't even know if this is botanically possible, frankly. But if so, I suppose I might have overlooked the small, narrow leaves if it just came up and grew without blooming afterwards…though I have my doubts about even that oversight. The second puzzle is the plant’s exact identification. My best guess is Iris virginica, Southern Blue Flag, or Virginia Iris. And yet its markings and small size don’t seem quite right. So I've continued digging through books and online databases, trying to correlate the iris on my riverbank with a similar photo or description. That’s why I posted this today rather than wait—in the hope that someone might set me straight on the matter. I’d really like to know the correct identity. In the meantime, I don’t have to know the iris's name to appreciate the river’s gift.

12 comments:

Wanda said...

I have the same iris I believe...I was told by my MIL that it was a Japanese Iris...whether that is true...I have no idea...I have heard it called a water iris too...They were from my MIL's yard years ago...I posted a photo in my previous post...They are only like 2 feet tall...Hope this helps!

Jain said...

I was similarly puzzled by the Wild Hyacinths we found earlier this month. There was a healthy population, it couldn't possibly have appeared only this year, so how on earth could we have missed it?

Come to think of it, I'm quite happy to have a little genuine mystery in my life. :o)

Scrumptious color, your iris!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Well, that just shows you how senile I'm getting—I saw your post which had the iris photo, even left a comment…and forgot. And I believe you're right in that they're the same. Certainly your photo looks the closest to mine of any I've seen.

As I said, this little iris plant is barely a foot tall—although that may simply be the individual plant being on the small side. It's obviously an iris that likes its feet wet. Whether native or import, I'm not sure…but either way, I don't know how it ended up on my bit of riverbank this spring, or whether it was there all along.

Thank you for reminding me about your photo, however. That at least tells me it probably not just some oddity, and may in fact be somewhat common hereabouts as I take it we both live and blog from the the same general area.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

I'm bound to admit I can occasionally miss something (see my above comment to Wanda!) but I swear I couldn't have missed an iris so colorful growing there! Not two years running! I'm just mildly senile, not full-bore oblivious!

Oh, I do so agree…mystery in life is absolutely necessary. One of those "spices" which makes our time worthwhile.

And the color you see is the color of the flower…nothing pumped up or manipulated. Just a spectacular "found" iris, whatever it is.

Lisa said...

Stunning color, and great photography to capture it. It sounds like that may be just what happened and that your iris was under water and waiting for a break to bloom.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lisa…

I don't know how else to explain the iris suddenly appearing there this spring.

I'm certain I didn't miss it last year or two years ago because I frequent that spot to fish…and I'm talking an almost daily basis when the water is right. I often fish for a half hour before settling into whatever work I've planned for the day—inside or out. This rock-strewn riverbank pocket and the steps at the corner of the cottage are my two favorite locations for a a few quick casts—and have been since moving in. So surely I would have noticed the plant if it had been in bloom previously.

'Tiz a mystery…

Jayne said...

I often think of the same gifts when you see a clump of daffodils growing out in the middle of a field somewhere. I always smile and remember the "bloom where you are planted" adage. Such a nice gift the river gave you. :c)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

"Bloom where you are planted…" is a wonderful line and philosophy. And exactly the case for this little riverbank iris.

When I see daffodils in a field or on a hillside, I always tie them in with those who have lived on the land before, and wonder about their story.

Such moments, invoked by these solitary or surprising plants in bloom, are indeed gifts—as is the beauty of the plants themselves.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Scribe - that blue is so deep and clear. In UK our iris which grows by the river is usually yellow. It moves downstream by bits of rhizome breaking off and going down until they wash up and take root somewhere. Could it not have come like that?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

The mystery iris very well may have arrived and taken root on my riverbank via that very means. In fact, I can't think of an alternate scenario anywhere near as likely.

This little iris is indeed a very intensely purple-blue. And the markings on the upper part of the petal are so bring and distinctive. I also liked the deep-red bud sheathes.

Rowan said...

This iris is a really gorgeous colour, it's satisfying to know its name but you can appreciate its beauty whether you know what it is called or not. I think Weaver is probably right about the way it arrived.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

I also think Weaver is likely right re. the iris's origins. And I do love its deep, saturated color and great markings.