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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Sunday - April 22, 2007

From: Kalamazoo, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Propagation, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Iris brevicaulis in Southwest Michigan
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

We live in Kalamazoo, MI (Southwest Michigan Zone 6) and discovered last year that we have an iris brevicaulis (we think) growing (and very pretty) on our property. It has the "zig zag" stem. It seemed to come out of nowhere (we have lived here 5 years and have never seen it) and is on a sandy/loamy hillside that used to be an apple orchard. Based on our research it is not supposed to be this far North. Is this rare for our area and conditions? There is no water anywhere near the area. How do Iris propagate other than rhizomes? Are there seeds a bird might spread? We've wondered how it got here to begin with. There is just one plant. I can send you a picture if you would like to verify the species.

ANSWER:

Your iris is possibly Zig-zag iris, Iris brevicaulis. However, Zig-zag iris is not the only iris with zig-zag stems. If your plant is Zig-zag iris, then it is an unusual denizen of your area. Birds would not be a likely candidate for dispersing iris seeds, although other herbivores such as deer or cattle might be responsible. Seed can also be dispersed by farm equipment, truck tires and footwear. Exactly how your plant came to be where it is growing may remain a mystery. While Zig-zag iris prefers moist soil, it will also grow in more upland settings.

If you would like to submit digital images for identification, please email them to id@smartyplants.org. Write "Plant Identification Request" on the subject line.

 

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