November 15, 2019

South of the Glacier

Iris crisata 'White Angel' - Crested Iris

Mark Uchneat Photo | Iris cristata 'White Angel' - Crested Iris

A long time ago, during the Wisconsinan glaciation, Iris cristata was just far enough south of the wall of ice to survive. Fast-forward 11,000 years and the descendants of this hardy dwarf crested iris are thriving. Pictured above is Iris cristata ‘White Angel,’ a cultivar of this native plant, which tends to be blue or lavender in the wild with a white being much more rare. Crested iris spreads via rhizomes in woodland settings, preferring part sun to thrive. With its sword-shaped leaves, this iris usually doesn’t get much taller than 6 to 8 inches in height, but the plant can easily naturalize in ideal settings and can be treated as a groundcover. In the wild, its spread is from Maryland to Oklahoma and south to Mississippi and Georgia. With a hardiness rating to Zone 3, Iris cristata should be tough enough for even a Maine winter. Well, it did survive on the edge of that encroaching glacier.