Marin County’s Fleur-de-lis

by Laurie Thompson

© Brad Rippe

he recent mixture of abundant rain followed by bright sunshine has created the perfect conditions for the beginning of wildflower season in Marin County.

We are fortunate to be surrounded by thousands of acres of parks and open space which provide fertile ground for everything from California’s Golden Poppy to Shooting Stars to Indian Paintbrush.

One of our more elegant wildflowers is the Douglas Iris. Consulting one of my favorite sources — Mary Elizabeth Parson’s The Wild Flowers of California — I find that Douglas Iris thrive in coastal California from Santa Cruz to Marin County.

Parson’s goes on to say:

On account of the bright and varied hues of its flowers, the genus Iris was named for the rainbow-winged messenger of the gods. In France it is known as fleur-de-lis, a name whose origin has caused endless discussion and has been accounted for in many ways. There are many species, all of them beautiful. Orris-root is the product of the lovely white Florentine iris.

In California we have several comparatively well-known species…. but the Douglas iris is probably our most beautiful. It thrives well upon open mesas or upon well-drained hill slopes in the shelter of the chaparral. But it is found at its best in the rich soil of moist woodlands, whose seclusion seems the most fitting abode for so aristocratic a flower. There, surrounded by the delicate greenery of fern-fronds and a hundred other tender, springing things, it seems to hold a sylvan court, receiving homage from all the other denizens of the wood. There is a certain marked and personal individuality about these flowers which makes encountering them seem like meeting certain distinguished personages. In the shade of deep woods the flowers are usually cream-white, while in open chaparral or on grassy slopes they are more apt to be lilac.

Originally published at



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