Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Iris. It lacks only an H to be Irish. Two Hs, actually, and an O.

The yellow iris loves water, and Ireland has lots of that. It hangs in the air. It runs in the ditches. It gathers in the bogs. "The wet centre is bottomless," says Seamus Heaney. The whole island floats like a soggy raft on the billowing Atlantic.

The yellow iris soaks its feet. Here, at the bottom of the muddy bothareen, the water has gathered into a squelchy sponge and the irises have run amok. An acre of irises.

They are beautiful. Yellow flags, they call them here, and forever may they wave. Three gorgeous flopping sepals. Three upright petals, each caressing a sexual spear. And, oh yeah, what appear to be three rather inconspicuous sepals between the bunting. Did I get that right? O say, can you see, by the day's misty light.

Is it a wildflower or a weed? Depends, I suppose, on where you find it. In an Irish ditch it is unmistakably a flower. As a European interloper crowding out native species in North America, it is a weed. I would define a weed as any species of life adapted for prolific colonization of disturbed habitats, often displacing indigenous species. Which, I suppose, makes Homo sapiens the weed par excellence. So we'll cut some slack to the yellow iris.