One of the first wildflowers I photographed on my trip west last summer was the Rocky Mountain Iris (iris missouriensis). I found a patch of these beautiful wild irises at Custer State Park in South Dakota.
Native to much of the Western United States and Canada, the Rocky Mountain Iris is a perennial that like other irises grows from rhizoomes. They grow to about 2 feet tall. Each plant has 1 – 4 purple flowers. Each flower has a yellow base. The Rocky Mountain Irises bloom usually bloom in May and June.
Also known as the Western Blue Flag Iris, these beautiful flowers have been used as a source of food, medicine and poison. The seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The roots of these plants are poisonous. Some tribes created a poison to use on arrows from the roots. Medicinally, parts of the plants have been used to treat tooth aches, skin problems, kidney and bladder complaints, and venereal diseases.
More information on the Rocky Mountain Irises is available online at