Blue Flag and Yellow Flag: Two Irises

Among the very earliest perennial flowering plants to emerge in Eliza Howell Park in the spring are the two iris species: blue flag and yellow flag. They grow in wet areas and I am aware of only one location for each, in different sections of the park. They have now, in late March, both emerged and begun to grow.

Blue flag presently looks like this.


Blue flag is a native North American iris, one of the many native wild flowers that bloom in Eliza Howell. Because there is only one small patch (as far as I know), in a wet woodland location, not many visitors to the park are likely to see it.

In about two and a half months, in early June, it will look like this.


The yellow flag iris patch is in the flood plain of the Rouge River, where it survives despite being under water several times in a typical spring. This is what it looks like at present, as the water is receding.


Yellow flag is not native to North America, originally found in Eurasia. It was brought here as a garden flower and the wild ones now found in places like Eliza Howell “escaped” from gardens and naturalized. It blooms later in spring. 

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Both are lovely examples of Eliza Howell flowers, blooming in the season after the earliest woodland wild flowers and before most open field flowers.

Blue flag is prized by those interested in having plants in local parks that were in the Detroit area long before European Americans named it Detroit and changed the landscape. There is something to be said for maintaining that connection.


I am happy to help park visitors find either or both.