Native and Invasive Irises (Iridaceae)

If there is one thing you can be sure of, as you learn more about plants and how to identify them, the clearer the destruction of native wildlands gets. Soon the beautiful flowers you see in a wild reserve turn up to be aggressive invasive species brought to the continent by people wanting a more European garden.

Today I want to show two species of Irises that can be found in New Jersey, North-Eastern America, Iris pseudacorus (Yellow-Flag Iris), and Iris versicolor (blue flag Iris).

Both species look similar, but, in my personal opinion, the native Iris looks far better than its European cousin. But, as the yellow-flag were quite popular in Europe they were imported for their ornamental value.

Both species like wet conditions to grow in and are found growing near ponds or swamps. Yellow Flag Iris takes over aquatic habitat and out-competes native plants by forming thick clumps that are hard to remove.

Adding native plants to your garden has a lot of advantages. Besides making your yard look beautiful, they attract and provide shelter to native insects and help restore the land to its original splendor! You can find links to native gardening websites here.

Go ahead, slide between the two flowers, and tell me which one is prettier!

Pogonia ophioglossoides

Pogonia ophioglossoides, better known by its common names, Rose Pogonia, or the snakemouthorchid. It is a terrestrial orchid found in wet areas along the East Coast, as north as Canada. It is pollinated by bees that it attracts by its sweet fragramce.

The scent of the orchid was put to words by Robert Frost in his poem titled “Rose Pogonias”, where he says – “stifling sweet/with the breath of many flowers…”

In New Jersey, these can be found in bogs or wetlands, even growing alongside carnivorous plants. As seen in the second photo, couple of orchids bloom alongside an old flower of a pitcher plant.

Eastern (Red-Spotted) Newt

Notophthalmus viridescens,the eastern newt is a common newt found across eastern North America. The adults are not as striking as the juveniles (efts), which are brightly colored to warn you of their toxins.

Shown here is an individual eft we stumbled across in high point state park, New Jersey. The swamps of the High Point are unique and are biologically diverse. You can learn more about the bog here on this excellent blog that goes through its natural history and its unusual evolution.

Utricularia

Utricularia, or more commonly known as Bladderwort, is a genus of carnivorous plants that are semi-aquatic to terrestrials. Their modified leaves underwater can catch small insects and even algae. Which technically makes them an omnivorous plant! You can find more information in this blog postInDefenceOfPlants is an excellent source of plant information. 

Shown above are two species I found in bloom, stripped bladderwort (Utricularia striata)[1 and 2] and the horned bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta) [3,4 and 5].

Here in New Jersey, you can find them growing in bogs. New Jersey hosts more than 10 species of bladderworts, some rare and threatened. They are hard to spot for most of the year, but in mid-summer, they pop out a pretty yellow flower blooming above the water surface. Clustered together, they put on quite a show.