Northern Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

Plant Family: Iris, Iridaceae

Wetland Indicator Status: OBL

Close up of Blue flag Iris

Iris versicolor grown in a sedge meadow at Poygan State Wildlife Area, Wisconsin

Northern Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) is one of the most attractive wetland plants in our area. The beauty of this plant seems understated in comparison to cultivars of the European Iris germanica.  I much prefer our native blue flag to the gaudy creations of man.  Blue flag is toxic to humans, but made its way into Native American and pioneer medicine.  It was also used to weave baskets and mats, and used a charm against snakes.

When not in bloom the sword-shaped leaves of Blue Flag can resemble the leaves of Broadleaf Cattail, or one of the Invasive Cattail species.

Northern Blue Flag Irises

Group of Northern Blue Flag Iris in sedge meadow.

For those looking to grow these flowers and lucky enough to live on the lake, blue flag will grow well along the shore.  For those of us who are not, blue flag will do well in garden ponds.  For six years I had one of these irises growing in my yard.  Conditions were too dry for it to bloom, even though it had expanded some.  The first year I potted it and placed it in a deep dish it produced several beautiful blooms.