1998: Dwarf Lake Iris Designated Michigan’s Official Wildflower

December 30, 2021 all-day
 Dwarf Lake Iris

Michigan State Wildflower: Dwarf Lake Iris

In 1996, the Wildflower Association of Michigan sponsored an informal wildflower preference poll in newspapers throughout the state. The Association invited citizens to vote for one of six native plants for nomination as the state’s official wildflower.

The large-flowered white trillium garnered 1,733 votes to secure first place in the poll. The dwarf lake iris came in second with 1,479 votes. Following the dwarf lake iris were the Michigan lily, with 475 votes, wild lupine, with 386 votes, bloodroot, with 259 votes, and hepatica with 120 votes.

While the large-flowered white trillium grows throughout eastern North America, the dwarf lake iris grows only in the Great Lakes area and most of the world’s population of this iris is found within the borders of Michigan. The dwarf lake iris is considered threatened on the state and federal levels.

On June 12, 1997, House Bill No. 4923 was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives. It proposed that the second-place dwarf lake iris be declared the state wildflower.

With the support of the Michigan Botanical Club, the Michigan Nature Association, the Michigan Natural Areas Council, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the University of Michigan Herbarium, State Representative Liz Brater of Ann Arbor introduced House Bill No. 4923 nominating the threatened dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris) as the official state wildflower of Michigan.

No doubt one of the purposes of this bill was to draw attention to the causes of protecting the dwarf lake iris and conservation in general. Development of Michigan lake shorelines was threatening the habitat of this plant.

Bill sponsor Rep. Liz Brater was considered a leader on environmental issues and is the past Land Use Director of the Ecology Center. She served as the Vice Chair of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs and the Agriculture, Forestry and Tourism Committees. In recognition of her leadership in protection of the environment, she was named the Sierra Club Environmentalist of the Year in 1996.

The Wildflower Association of Michigan did not react kindly to House Bill No. 4923 and called it “an outrageous power play by select environmental interests over the interests of the people of Michigan.”

The efforts of the Wildflower Association of Michigan may have been doomed from the beginning however. Promoted as a symbol of the state’s efforts to balance growth and conservation, the dwarf lake iris gained majority support because it was so unique to the State of Michigan.

House Bill No. 4923 was passed in both the House and Senate and signed, although not enthusiastically, by Governor John M. Engler on December 29, 1998 with an effective date of December 30, 1998. Evidently the governor was not a fan of “official state anythings.”

Michigan Law

The following information was excerpted from the Michigan Compiled Laws, Chapter 2, Section 2.81.

Chapter 2 STATE
STATE WILDFLOWER (2.81 – 2.81)

2.81 State wildflower.

Sec. 1.

The dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris) is designated as an official wildflower of this state.

History: 1998, Act 454, Imd. Eff. Dec. 30, 1998

Source: Michigan State Wildflower

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