Douglas’ Iris Story

Douglas’ Iris on our ranch

Many years ago, Donald had a tenant who lived in the house where Ramon and his family now live who told him a story about the Douglas’ Iris that come up this time of year. The tenant told him they were planted by one of the first pioneers—a little like a Johnny Appleseed of irises— and that the flowers multiplied.

I understand how this story got started. They do look a lot like the domesticated versions that we plant as bulbs, but they are native perennials that extend from the coastal ranges of central California up into southern Oregon, part of the natural ecology of the redwoods.

My first view of them this year was last week when my son Jesse and I entered a forest after crossing a sunny meadow on Point Reyes National Seashore trail—there was an intensity of purple in a bed of irises! The following day I saw many larger white Douglas’ Irises on another trail. I could hardly wait to see if ours too were in bloom.

Sure enough! When I returned home, the irises were blooming!

It is some of the biodiversity that we want to protect, one that whispers about what other plants used to live here together in this particular spot.