Oregon Flag (Iris tenax)
Not to be confused with this Oregon flag.
Iris is the Greek word for rainbow. Irises grow in groups and spread through their roots. As the groups get larger, the older plants in the middle often die, leaving the rest in ring-like shapes. The roots of the iris are known to be poisonous and are said to have been used by Native Americans to poison the tips of arrowheads.
Who would have guessed that native tribes braided the strong leaves of this particular Iris into ropes for capturing deer and elk, as reported by famed botanist David Douglas. This explains the species tenax which translates to ‘tenacious’, perhaps more obviously applied to the tough foliage of Xerophyllum tenax, aka beargrass.
Iris species can be difficult to differentiate. This is one of three that appear in the gorge, and the only one that blooms in June. Compare to Douglas’ Iris.