Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Rocky Mountain iris colony

with 24 comments

Click to enlarge.

On June 9th, after we’d driven clockwise more than half-way around the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway north of Taos, New Mexico, I came across this happily flowering colony of Rocky Mountain irises. Given the wildflower’s popular name, which I learned on the trip, I was later surprised to find out the scientific name is Iris missouriensis. As far as I know, the Rocky Mountains don’t make it into that state; sorry, Missouri.

Today’s picture confirms what the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center says of this species: “it often forms dense, large patches in low spots in pastures, where the tough leaves are avoided by cattle.”

After the reactions to the rattlesnake in the previous post, I’ll bet many of you are relieved to see wildflowers again.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2017 at 4:49 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Yes, this is more soothing to my senses.


    July 15, 2017 at 6:36 AM

  2. Oh I thought the rattlesnake rocked, but this is very beautiful, even if the botanists who named it weren’t sure where they were.


    July 15, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    • I like your alliteration. An adjacent suburb on the north side of Austin is Round Rock, so we can say that rattlesnakes rock in Round Rock too.

      As for the name of the iris, apparently the species was first described in botanical terms from a Missouri specimen. I’m guessing that happened before lots of settlers moved west and came up with the popular name Rocky Mountain iris. On this trip we first saw it in the Black Hills of South Dakota several days before we drove through the Rocky Mountains.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 15, 2017 at 8:52 AM

  3. Seems more like a small country than a colony. Great iris population.

    Steve Gingold

    July 15, 2017 at 11:34 AM

    • You’re funny: a small country rather than a colony. You’ve reminded me of the iceberg that just broke loose from Antarctica and that’s the size of Delaware.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 15, 2017 at 2:07 PM

      • It has also been compared to other states and small countries. Suffice it to say that it is huge and, I think, the largest ice chunk to calve on record.

        Steve Gingold

        July 15, 2017 at 2:45 PM

        • I also heard that this iceberg was already in the ocean before breaking off and therefore won’t cause any rise in sea level. Only icebergs that melt on land can contribute to the rise of the oceans.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 15, 2017 at 3:27 PM

          • I’m not geologist or oceanographer so can’t say but I wonder if the ice that is not in the water makes a difference or if the same amount is displaced by the weight of the berg. I guess watching ice cubes melt in a glass of water would tell the tale. If it was attached, which breaking off would indicate, then perhaps gravity would have an increased effect. At any rate, it’s big.

            Steve Gingold

            July 15, 2017 at 4:05 PM

            • Your proposed experiment of watching ice cubes melt in a glass of water should settle the matter. The way I think about it is that water expands when it freezes, therefore ice under water must take up less room after it melts. The 10% of an ice cube above the water will, after it melts, raise the water level a little, but probably less than the lowering of the level caused by the contraction of the 90% of the ice under the water after it melts.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 15, 2017 at 4:23 PM

  4. […] the last post you saw a large colony of Rocky Mountain irises (Iris missouriensis) in northern New Mexico. The first time I encountered […]

  5. This display certainly puts my seasonal ditch diamonds to shame. It may be that my timing hasn’t been right, but I’ve never seen such dense stands of iris. They’re truly beautiful.

    You were lucky to come upon them at just the right time. To my chagrin, I learned on Friday that four days is long enough for grasses to grow up and nearly hide great swaths of bluebells. Hot temperatures and daily rains can do amazing — if just slightly irritating — things. The best-laid plans, and all that.


    July 16, 2017 at 8:34 AM

    • There aren’t any native irises in Austin. Naturally when I spied such a dense colony of them I had to pull over and see what I could do. Unfortunately the field was fenced. Without the freedom to wander and get close, I had to look for the best compositions I could get from the side of the road. That meant using my long lens, as we recently discussed. Even at the maximum 280mm, the frame included undesirable and out-of-focus stuff at the top and bottom, so I took my pictures with the idea I’d crop off the upper and lower portions to make a panorama out of the ribbon across the middle. What’s shown in the picture is just over half of the area of the original.

      Yes, I’ve had quickly-grown-up grasses spoil many a would-be picture. C’est la vie.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2017 at 9:52 AM

  6. That looks like a Monet painting! Beautiful!

  7. A gorgeous sea of blue .. lovely Steve


    July 20, 2017 at 9:23 AM

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