Growing up wild in the Sandhills of North Carolina, nature marked the passage of my days almost as well as the Johnsonville Ruritan Club's birthday calendar which hung inside the kitchen cabinet beside the stove.
And the wild iris was my favorite springtime marker.
Just beyond the limits of the mowed yard, on the margin of a small copse of trees, consisting as best I can recall of one magnificent longleaf pine, a hickory or two, a couple of scrub oaks and a small blackgum tree, there was a small community of six or eight tiny iris plants. Their leaves were present nearly year-round, but only in the early spring, usually around Easter, did the blossoms appear.
And oh, what blossoms!
Dwarf wild iris, dwarf violet iris or vernal iris; by any name, its emergence from the sandy soil of the southern pines is a magical springtime treat, and undeniable evidence of spring's arrival.
This particular individual resides at the margin of the woods near my brother's home in Harnett county, just a couple of miles from those bold little bloomers that announced the springs of my childhood.
On a trip to the NC mountains last spring, I was delighted to discover an upland community of dwarf irises which are very similar in appearance to my old friends from the Sandhills. Spreading by way of rhizomes, the miniature montane iris formed much denser colonies than those I encountered in my youth.
The blossoms showed some slight variation as well, but these diminutive heralds trumpeted the same glad tidings as their lowland brethren had throughout the years of my childhood...
The long, cold nights of winter have passed, and still we live! Witness the glory of spring's rebirth! Spring is here! Rejoice!