Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Always Nice to Find What You're Looking For

As many of you know, my job involves looking for rare plants and high quality natural ares in the Lake Erie watershed portion of Ohio. Searching for rare plants is a combination of knowledge, intuition, sticktoitiveness, extreme attention to detail, and sometimes downright luck. Last week, I searched for the tiny one flowered wintergreen at Oak Openings Metropark for about 3 hours, only to come up empty. It was the only sight know for that little plant in Ohio, and if I can't find it in the next week or two, it will probably be considered an extirpated species instead of endangered, because it won't have been seen for over twenty years.

Today was a different story. I went to relocate Iris brevicaulis at Dupont Marsh State Nature Preserve, adjacent to the Huron River in Erie County. Coupled with the knowledge of where the plant had been found, and the knowledge provided to me by my guide today, Brad Phillips of Erie Metroparks, were were able to locate this beautiful iris within about 5 minutes of stepping off the trail. A good day, indeed. This species was last documented from Dupont Marsh in 1991. It differs from our other blue irises, mostly distinctly, by its short, zig-zag stem, spreading perianth (the flower), and its 6 angled capsule (if fruiting).

Here's the more common iris of the Lake Erie marshes, Iris versicolor. I snapped this shot at the Navarre Unit of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge while co-worker Rick Gardner and I were surveying the vegetation of the diked marshes in the area, so very close to the Davis-Besse nuclear power station.

Notice how much longer the flowering stems are in the directly above, and then compare that with the low flower image in the next image up- the Iris versicolor flowers are the same height as the leaves, whereas the Iris brevicaulis flowers are hidden amongst the lower reaches of the blades.

It's always nice to find what you're looking for, and today, that is exactly what happened.



  1. Isn't that true in life too, that we are always glad to find what we're looking for. :-) Nice job!

  2. Congratulations. Tom, on finding that iris. What a beauty! I went looking for One-flowered Wintergreen today, too, not expecting to find it, since I found it only once before in the middle of a vast forest. But luck was on my side today. I'll post its photo soon on my blog. It's hard for ordinary folks to understand how excited we get when we find these rare flowers. I know that it makes my day!

  3. Congratulations, Tom , on a good day of botanizing1 It is a beautiful, delicate flower. I love the color! good luck tomorrow at Singer.

  4. Congratulations on your find. I'm glad Iris brevicaulis is still a viable Ohio species. It's a beautiful species.

  5. I guess congratulations are in order, Tom. It sure is a lovely plant and deserves recognition. I just hope it is able to survive without too much public attention. Some people like to dig up plants and take them home to grow. I hate that but it happens.

    I wish I could create a swamp here in one spot. I did create a kind of grassland in one spot but none of the birds have taken a liking to it though this is the first summer. Maybe next year I will have better luck.

    It would be nice to have a list of establishments that sell seed or plants that are native to Ohio that we could buy and use here.

  6. Beautiful little iris...hope you have luck with the relocating it. Your work is very interesting and you see so many neat things. I realize now that I missed a lot of neat nature stuff in Ohio when I was younger. I wasn't a photo nut back then and wish that I had been. Digital cameras make things so much simpler.

  7. Thanks everyone.

    Jackie- That is quite a story. I'm going back to look for the Moneses this week.

    Abe- I need to do some research on this for you.

    Mary- Definitely right about digital cameras. They're able to record so many memories, nature stuff included.