Species Profile

Western Blue Flag

Scientific Name: Iris missouriensis
Other/Previous Names: Western Blue-flag
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Alberta
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2010
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern


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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Western Blue Flag

Western Blue Flag Photo 1

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Description

Western Blue Flag, a long–lived perennial, is a member of the Iris family. Flowering stalks produce two to four showy flowers in various colours of pale to deep blue and lavender, with a rare white form found occasionally. Each flower has purple veins that radiate from a bearded yellow spot on each of three outer sepals (segments) that are recurved and spread outward. Three petals and three styles on the inner segments of the flower are erect or arch upwards and bloom sequentially, often on a leafless stem or sometimes having one leaf. Pale blue–green sword–like leaves folded lengthwise grow from the base of the stem, which reaches a height of 30 to 60 cm. The species is sometimes called the Rocky Mountain Iris. (Updated 2017/05/24)

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Distribution and Population

Western Blue Flag is a North American species that is widely distributed throughout the western United States. In Canada, the species is known from a site as far north as Banff National Park, Alberta, as well as sites in the Calgary region. However, these sites are of unknown origin and appear to be beyond the native range of the species which occurs within a narrow band near the U.S.–Canada border extending from the west portion of the Milk River Ridge to west of Carway, Alberta. In total, there are 17 documented populations (native and introduced), only 10 of which are considered native. The following seven populations are considered to be beyond the native range and are not included for assessment purposes; they are also of unknown or introduced origin or no longer extant: four extant populations of unknown origin (Fort Macleod, Calgary Airport, Banff National Park, and Park Lake), one introduced and extant population (Frank Lake), and two extirpated (University of Calgary and Picture Butte). The species was formerly considered to occur in British Columbia but those specimens are now considered to be another species, Iris setosa Pallas ex Link. The species, including all 17 native, unknown, and introduced populations occurring from the U.S.–Canada border to Calgary and Banff National Park extends over an area of about 22,000 km². However, the actual range of the ten native populations near the U.S.–Canada border covers an area of only about 250 km². Most of the intervening area between the native populations and those northward as far as Banff is unsuitable habitat for the species with the actual area of habitat occupied by native plants being about 3 km². (Updated 2017/05/24)

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Habitat

Native populations of Western Blue Flag are located in the Foothills Fescue and Foothills Parkland natural subregions in Alberta. Some populations of unknown origin are located in other subregions, including the Mixedgrass (Park Lake and Fort McLeod) and Montane (Banff). Habitat preference for the Western Blue Flag is within a narrow zone of moist meadows through a transition zone of drier upland slopes and wet meadows or seepage springs. Its occurrence is usually on level or slightly sloping ground with an abundance of subsurface moisture. Soil conditions in the spring are damp, but are well drained and drier by the middle of summer. Western Blue Flag is often found near willow thickets around moist depressions, with some sites on dry upland areas in Rough Fescuecommunities. (Updated 2017/05/24)

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Biology

This species reproduces both sexually and asexually. The linear growth and branching of the rhizomes is able to withstand trampling and allows it to spread quickly when competing vegetation is removed. A three–chambered capsule containing the smooth, dark brown seeds can be dispersed by wind, water and other methods. Seeds require a germination period of two to three months, with flowers produced in the second or third year. Flowers appear from mid–June through early July in Alberta and are adapted to bee pollination. (Updated 2017/05/24)

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Threats

The main limiting factors and threats to Western Blue Flag include the loss of habitat (including alteration and fragmentation of landscapes), competition from introduced/invasive species, grazing pressure, alteration of hydrology, collection for horticultural and medicinal uses and herbicide use. The species does benefit from light to moderate grazing. (Updated 2017/05/24)

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Protection

Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

One population occurs within a provincial park and receives some protection, but is threatened by introduced species. (Updated 2006/04/02)

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Management Plan for the Western Blue Flag (Iris missouriensis) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Western Blue-flag Recovery Team

  • Richard Quinlan - Chair/Contact - Government of Alberta
    Phone: 403-381-5397  Fax: 403-381-5723  Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Alberta’s Maintenance and Recovery Plan for the Western Blue Flag in Canada was published in April 2002. The plan is characterized by co-operation and voluntary participation, stakeholder involvement in management decisions, protection of a threatened species in a sustainable ranching landscape, and landscape management to benefit multiple species of native grasslands. Progress made on implementation of the Action Plan component of the maintenance and recovery plan is being evaluated. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Existing and newly discovered Western Blue Flag populations are being inventoried. Summary of Recovery Activities Eight management regimes have been introduced to protect and benefit Western Blue Flag and other native range plant and animal species. These activities include various improvements on several properties. Several public outreach activities and research components of Alberta’s Maintenance and Recovery Plan for the Western Blue Flag are underway. The Western Blue Flag conservation program is being continued, but it has been incorporated into MULTISAR, the multi-species conservation initiative for species at risk. URLs The Western Blue Flag:http://raysweb.net/specialplaces/pages/flag.html Alberta Government: Western Blue Flag:http://www3.gov.ab.ca/srd/FW/threatsp/wbf_stat.html Alberta, Naturally: Western Blue Flag:http://www.abheritage.ca/abnature/speciesatrisk/blue_flag_intro.htm MULTISAR:http://www.multisar-milkriverbasin.com/

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Western Blue Flag Iris missouriensis in Canada (2010)

    Western Blue Flag, a long-lived perennial, is a member of the Iris family. Flowering stalks produce two to four showy flowers in various colours of pale to deep blue and lavender, with a rare white form found occasionally. Each flower has purple veins that radiate from a bearded yellow spot on each of three outer sepals (segments) that are recurved and spread outward. Three petals and three styles on the inner segments of the flower are erect or arch upwards and bloom sequentially, often on a leafless stem or sometimes having one leaf. Pale blue-green sword-like leaves folded lengthwise grow from the base of the stem, which reaches a height of 30 to 60 cm. The species is sometimes called the Rocky Mountain Iris.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment Summary and Status Report: Western Blue Flag Iris missouriensis (2010)

    Assessment Summary – April 2010 Common name Western Blue Flag Scientific name Iris missouriensis Status Special Concern Reason for designation This showy perennial is restricted to ten native sites and is also present at a few sites where it is believed to have been introduced. It occurs primarily in the grasslands of southern Alberta. Several new populations have been discovered since the species was last assessed. The area occupied and total population size of native plants are now known to be larger than previously determined. The total Canadian population appears to be stable but fluctuates in size. The species is subject to on-going competition from invasive plants, but trampling in areas heavily grazed by cattle has been largely mitigated by recovery actions. Occurrence Alberta Status history Designated Threatened in April 1990. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000. Status re-examined and designated Special Concern in April 2010.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Western Blue Flag (2010)

    This showy perennial is restricted to ten native sites and is also present at a few sites where it is believed to have been introduced. It occurs primarily in the grasslands of southern Alberta. Several new populations have been discovered since the species was last assessed. The area occupied and total population size of native plants are now known to be larger than previously determined. The total Canadian population appears to be stable but fluctuates in size. The species is subject to on-going competition from invasive plants, but trampling in areas heavily grazed by cattle has been largely mitigated by recovery actions.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Western Blue Flag (Iris missouriensis) in Canada (2017)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Western Blue Flag and has prepared this management plan, as per section 65 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of Alberta, as per section 66(1) of SARA.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2011)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, hereby acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of assessments conducted under subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2012)

    The purpose of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act is to add 18 species to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), and to reclassify 7 listed species, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of SARA. This amendment is made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – November 2010 (2010)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 4, 2011 for species undergoing normal consultations and by February 4, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017