Species At Risk

Dwarf Lake Iris

(Iris lacustris)

Special Concern

Dwarf Lake Iris
Dwarf Lake Iris occurrences map


Dwarf Lake Iris is a low-growing flowering plant, with a stalk about 10 centimetres high, and broad, strap-like leaves that can reach 18 centimetres in length. In early June, it produces showy, violet-coloured flowers, which in rare cases may be white. This plant spreads mainly by underground roots that can sprout new plants. It also produces seeds, which are spread by ants.

Action we are taking:


Dwarf Lake Iris is only found in a relatively small area in North America along the shores and nearshore areas of the Great Lakes. In Canada, there are 43 known sites in Ontario, mainly on the Bruce Peninsula, with a few locations on Manitoulin Island. In 2003, 32 of these sites were surveyed, and only 16 (plus two newly discovered sites) still supported Dwarf Lake Iris. The total population is estimated to contain approximately one million individual shoots. The exact number of plants is difficult to determine since shoots can be connected by underground roots.


In Ontario, Dwarf Lake Iris grows on sand or thin soil over limestone gravel or bedrock. It prefers open or somewhat shaded areas. It is mostly found in Eastern White Cedar or Balsam Fir woodlands, but also occurs in cedar swamps, clearings on forested sand dunes, and in alvars (open areas of limestone bedrock with very little soil).


In Ontario, the shoreline habitat where the Dwarf Lake Iris lives is also highly prized for cottage and residential development. As a result, much of the habitat of this rare plant has been destroyed, altered or is in jeopardy. Any changes in water levels or sunlight availability could also be a threat to this sensitive plant.


Dwarf Lake Iris is listed as species of Special Concern under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Although it does not receive protection under this act because of its Special Concern status, it does receive protection under the federal Species at Risk Act and the Canada National Parks Act (for occurrences within national parks). The species also occurs in provincial parks, where it is afforded some protection.

What You Can Do to Help the Dwarf Lake Iris

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Dwarf Lake Iris. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Pollinators, such as bees, are in steep decline across the globe and they play a key role in the survival of many of Ontario’s rare plants. For information on how you can help scientists monitor pollinator populations in Ontario visit: www.seeds.ca/proj/poll.

Did you know?

Dwarf Lake Iris is similar to Blue Flag Iris, a wildflower commonly found in landscaped backyard ponds and in bouquets. These two species can be easily distinguished because Dwarf Lake Iris is low-growing at just 10 centimetres tall.

Did you know?

Michigan recently designated the Dwarf Lake Iris as its official wildflower.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.