Yellow Iris

Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus)

On Monday morning, I was hiking the Spur Dike at Wiley Slough in the Skagit River delta.  I came upon a vehicle and a group of people out on the dike, something quite unusual.  They were donning chest high waders and preparing spray cans.  I was curious about what they were doing.

Their mission was noxious weed control.  Recall that this part of the Skagit River delta is being restored to improve habitat for the endangered Skagit run of Chinook Salmon.  Their specific targets were Yellow Iris and Purple Loosestrife.

Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus) is a wildflower native to Europe including Britain, western Asia and north Africa.  It is a beautiful flower and revered by Europeans.  The famous Fleur-de-lis symbol of France is believed to represent the Yellow Iris.  In North America, it has escaped our gardens and become a threat to wetlands.  It can outgrow and displace native vegetation.  It will choke waterways and reduce the carrying capacity of wetlands for waterfowl.  For these reasons, it is included on the state noxious weed list.

Two years ago, I spotted one Yellow Iris plant out here.  At the time I thought it was a lucky find.  On this visit, there were several patches of it and some were quite large.  Obviously, it is beginning to spread and why it has become important to get it under control.

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) doesn't start blooming until late June, and I didn't spot any on this visit.  Its native habitat is roughly the same as Yellow Iris where it also likes to grow in fresh water and brackish wetlands.

As it happened, there was a second crew with vehicles out on the dike on this morning.  They had U.S. Government license plates on their trucks and they had a fish net in Wiley Slough.  They were doing a census of baby Chinook Salmon, measuring the fish and recording their findings.  It looks like the efforts to restore this habitat is showing success.

It turned out to be an interesting morning.  I got to observe two activities of habitat restoration going on at the same time.