FORAGE April: Yellow Flag Iris

20170408_104129_HDR-COLLAGEThe FORAGE April: Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) workshop could have been billed as ‘underwater basket weaving’ – but man did we have fun!! Thanks to the 12 brave souls who came and cut back invasive yellow flag iris and harvested roots for dye. And special thanks to Kari and Stanley Park Ecology Society, and Vancouver Park Board!

The growing season here has been so delayed by the months of snow and freezing temperatures, and the steady rain and cooler temperatures throughout March and into April, that most of the iris is only about half as high as it usually is at this time of year. It’s a bit like ‘limp celery’ right now, but we trust that it will be nice for weaving once it’s been dried and then resoaked. The late summer and early fall is the best time to gather the leaves for weaving, when they are as long and fibrous as they’re going to get; but since our foraging needs to dovetail with the existing invasive-species management practices of the stewards of the land, the spring is when we often find ourselves gathering this generous (albeit unwelcome) plant. Scroll down the Video Resources Page to find the video about yellow flag iris produced for the Urban Weaver Studio Project.

In place of the green iris leaves, which are too fresh to use for weaving right after harvest, we practiced twined basket starts using English ivy (Hedera helix) on red osier dogwood sticks. Red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) is an indigenous species that’s often planted in parks as part of perennial landscaping because of its gorgeous red limbs. According to Nancy J. Turner, it was a traditional weaving material for many of the First Nations of British Columbia, especially favoured for food implements and fish traps and weirs. Clippings can often be found at this time of year as the plants are pruned back.