Lately I’ve become interested in adding native plants to our gardens and wooded area. Sure, non-native flowers can be gorgeous, but there are so many native options to choose from that are better suited for the environment (and therefore easier to grow).
So today we’re going to learn about Michigan’s official wildflower. And a brief summary of how it came to be the Dwarf Lake Iris.
Long story short, the popular vote was for Trillium (another native wildflower) to be named Michigan’s state wildflower. Politicians decided to proceed with the second place wildflower, the Dwarf Lake Iris, due to its threatened status. Maybe they thought the additional awareness about the unique and threatened habitat of the Dwarf Lake Iris could help preserve the species.
I’ve never seen one of these beauties in person. But thanks to the internet, I was able to find a number of blog posts and photos featuring the Dwarf Lake Iris.
Here’s one that was taken by Joshua Mayer in Wisconsin (see below). The Dwarf Lake Iris may look familiar, but that’s because it’s part of the Iris family. This particular flower is miniature — about 1.5″ flowers, with 2″ stems and 6″ leaves.
The Dwarf Lake Iris is unique to the Great Lakes; its scientific name, Iris Lacustris, means “rainbow of the lakes.”
Here are some resources I found if you want to learn more about the Dwarf Lake Iris:
- Iris Lacustris – Center For Plant Conservation – I learned that 95% of the existing Dwarf Lake Iris plants exist in Michigan, and that its primary threats include loss of habitat, increasing human disturbance, and Iris Lacustris is very similar to the related (and more common) Iris Cristata.
- Iris Lacustris – Michigan DNR – this has a nice map depicting where the Dwarf Lake Iris is distributed in Michigan. There are some interesting tidbits, including that “of the lakes” meaning I mentioned earlier.
- Iris Lacustris – Flora of Wisconsin – here’s a brief summary of the plant and how to identify it (including pictures).
- Iris Lacustris – Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris and pictures of the flowers, including a rare white blossom.
- Michigan State Wildflower – Netstate – If you’re interested in how the Michigan Wildflower Association sponsored an informal public poll for the state wildflower, and how the runner up was nominated in 1997 by House Representative Liz Brater (supported by the Michigan Botanical Club, the Michigan Nature Association, the Michigan Natural Areas Council, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the University of Michigan Herbarium)…. this site has the political aspect covered.
- Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan Sea Grant – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris’ habitat, characteristics, the fact that its scientific name means “rainbow of the lakes” …plus more pictures
- Dwarf Lake Iris – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Endangered Species – facts about the Dwarf Lake Iris (including printable fact sheet), why it is listed as a threatened species, what is being done to protect it, and how to hopefully prevent its extinction.
Books + Activities
I found some additional craft and activity resources for learning about state flowers and native plants, which you might enjoy (Amazon #afflinks used below):
- US State Flowers in Counted Cross Stitch – a really neat resource! I love cross stitch and kind of want to put this on my wishlist for when I have spare time.
- State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book – a great coloring book for older kids or adults, this one has lots of detail and realism.
- Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan – a good reference book for the casual or devoted gardener who wants to use Michigan’s native plants in their gardens.
- Perennials For Michigan – another reference book that is good if you are a fan of perennials (like me!).
- Great Lakes Nature Guide – a book that caught my eye because I know my son would love learning about the plants and animals native to our area.
- State Birds and Flowers – 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle – a fun puzzle to help you learn about the fauna and flora of all the states.
Dwarf Lake Iris Craft
Now for a fun craft to help facilitate discussion about Michigan’s official wildflower. I kept this pretty simple, as I wanted to go with an artistic abstraction that would encourage my son, Toby, to think and visualize pictures of the Dwarf Lake Iris in terms of simplified shapes.
For this activity, we used some origami paper that I received for review purposes (Orchid Origami Paper – 500 sheet pack #afflink). I have to say, the paper totally lives up to my standards so far as origami paper goes. The surface of the paper is smooth, they are easy to fold and get sharply creased, and the colors are really bright.
And before you say anything, yes, I know… cutting is kind of a no-no when forming origami creations. But, I couldn’t help but be drawn to all the bright colors when I was trying to decide on a craft to go along with our discussion of Michigan’s official wildflower.
So that’s all there is to it! This could be more of a sensory experience, if you let the paper pieces be loose and transient like we did, or you could use a glue stick to permanently adhere the abstracted pieces to the paper. Your call. I went with simpler and more experimental. Because that’s what works for us!
Tour the World By Flower
This post is part of the Tour the World By Flower blog hop. Every state and country (and as we’ve discovered, province, county or territory) has an official flower. A number of bloggers have collaborated to Tour the World by Flower with crafts to learn about various official flowers! Make sure to check out Suzy Homeschooler’s Michigan Apple Blossom craft, which is the official state flower for Michigan.
Disclaimer: I received one or more products gratis in exchange for an honest evaluation — the opinions expressed are 100% my own.