Western Blue Flag
Scientific Name: Iris missouriensis
Other/Previous Names: Western Blue-flag
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2010
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Image of Western Blue Flag
The Western Blue Flag is a perennial plant that grows from a thick, dark rhizome. It has blue-green leaves that are 30 to 60 cm long and 3 to 8 cm wide. The flowering stems are generally leafless, but may have a single leaf. There are 2 to 4 pale blue or blue-violet flowers on a stem, followed by an oblong seed capsule that is 2 to 5 cm long and contains brown seeds.
Distribution and Population
The Western Blue Flag is widely distributed in the western United States. In Canada, it is restricted to about 500 km2 in southern Alberta where it is known to occur at seven locations. It has disappeared from an eighth natural location and has been introduced at four other sites. Formerly reported to exist in central British Columbia as well, the plant thought to be the Western Blue Flag in this province was determined to be a different species. The size of the current total population in Alberta is unknown. In 1989, there were fewer than 10,000 plants in Canada. No known populations have been extirpated in the last decade, but the habitat for two populations has been degraded. The populations at one location are being monitored: at one monitoring site the population appears to have increased, but at all others it decreased by 37 to 100%. Population declines have occurred at most other locations (50% at one location).
The Western Blue Flag inhabits moist meadows and streambanks, areas that are usually wet in the spring but dry or remain just slightly moist during the summer. The plants require moisture when they are flowering, and warmer and drier conditions in subsequent months. All Alberta populations are on level or gently sloping ground that is only slightly humid during most of the growing season
The Western Blue Flag reproduces from seeds and from rootstocks to form clones. The species can spread rapidly through vegetative growth if competing vegetation is removed by moderate grazing, but heavy grazing is detrimental to the plant. Blue Flag flowers from mid-June to early July. The seeds are dispersed by the wind and usually fall close to the parent plant, requiring a two- to three-month germination period. Flowers are produced in the second or third year.
The distribution of the Western Blue Flag is limited by climate, suitable habitat and its narrow environmental tolerances. In addition, loss of habitat (especially conversion of native grassland to pasture and cropland) is an important limiting factor. Since this species occupies a very narrow niche, human activities such as alteration of drainage patterns, overgrazing, cultivation, and the use of herbicides limit the areas where it can survive. Other limiting factors include competition from native and invasive species, change in habitat conditions, and the collection of plants for horticultural and medicinal uses.
Federal ProtectionMore 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.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Management Plan for the Western Blue Flag (Iris missouriensis) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry
Western Blue-flag Recovery Team
Richard Quinlan - Chair/Contact - Government of Alberta
Phone: 403-381-5397 Fax: 403-381-5723 Send Email
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/
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 (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Assessments (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Management Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Document Posting Plans (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
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.
Recovery Document Posting Plans
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