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Fun Facts on Iris

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Interesting Facts on the Iris Plant

The wonderful Iris, also known as the rainbow flower, has over 300 species of their genus Iridaceae. We commonly recognize an iris, based on its bright violet petals. Once they bloom, you see a bright yellow line contrasting with the petals. Since most of the species are hybrids, they come in many colours and patterns, not just violet! You can see veining, lines, or even dots! As for their colours, you can see them in variations of blues, yellows, purples, violets, pinks, and whites. These showy flowers made their way into homes and museums, most notably in the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in New Jersey as it holds over 10,000 iris plants.

Colour combination shows:

  • Blues and Whites

  • Yellows and Purples

  • Maroons

  • Whites and Violets

  • Pinks

  • Pale Blue or Yellow

  • Deep Blue

  • There are no bright red irises

Classification, Identification, and Toxicity

For the cultivated irises, they come in three groups:

  1. Bearded irises have hairs (filaments ) going down the middle of their falls.

  2. Beardless irises as the name suggest don't have filaments.

  3. Aril irises have a white cup or collar (the aril) around their seeds.

    1. Hybrids between aril and bearded irises are called aribreds.

The easiest way you can identify an Iris is from its flower. However, without the knowledge of where they're from and what they look like before bloom, it can be difficult to spot. Since they're perennial plants, they can grow in different climates for many years. You mainly see them naturally growing in warm regions around the northern hemisphere like Europe to Asia, sometimes across North America as well. Predominantly found in dry, colder, semi-desert or rocky mountainous areas. Sometimes, you can also see them near grassy slopes, meadowlands, bogs, and riverbanks. You can spot these inflorescence flowers in creeping rhizomes or in bulbs before their earliest bloom (can be as early as February and March).

More Cool Facts:

  • In Europe, the hybrid Iris is commonly mistaken as the German Iris which is a sterile flower.

  • Garden iris are classed as either bulb iris or rhizome iris (called rhizomatous)

  • The Iris is February's birth flower.

  • If you're having trouble spotting the Iris plant, just smell their roots. It contains their fragrance (but don't go pulling out every plant you see!).

  • To maximize the best scent of the roots, you'll have to dry it for at least three years!

  • The roots of the Iris can also be used as a fragrance for perfumes and natural toothpaste!

What's amazing about the Iris is their shape. This flower is great for pollinating because of where the stigmatic surface lays. The insect lands on the iris' landing strip to probe for nectar, in turn, pollinates the flower. Just like the Greek Goddess Iris, who was entrusted to be a messenger also brings nectar to the gods- just like how the flower serves insects to pollinate other iris flowers.

The easiest characteristic to spot irises would be their tall, narrow, and sword-shaped stem, as well as their petals. Up to three petals or 'standards' point upright. Some iris species, especially the small ones, can have all of their six lobes pointing outwards. As an iris blooms, sometimes you see them in a cluster in a shape of a fan, ranging from one to six lobed flowers. They can also grow a single flower head on a stem (pedicel) or multiple flower heads on a stem (peduncle).

You can smell an Iris plant but not too long, especially if you're allergic! The iris plant is mildly poisonous so, the longer you're exposed to the root the higher your chances are to get skin and airway irritation. Those who are severely allergic will see hives, develop hay fever, and asthma. Even handling the iris plant can cause skin irritation. Ingesting the roots, unless they're dried, can cause salivation, diarrhea, and vomiting. A safer way of enjoying the scent is to dry the root first and only in small quantities. Another way is to find hypoallergenic products instead since it doesn't contain orris roots!

More Cool Facts:

  • Only some rhizomatous irises have a "beard". In the center of the iris, the flower's filaments (reproductive organ) glow upright together in a small bundle making it look like a small fuzzy beard.

  • Bearded iris can also be classified as dwarf, tall, or aril.

  • Bearded Iris only has 3 petals while the rest are actually large sepals!

  • Some Iris plants can bloom a second time in late summer.

  • The iris fruit comes in a pod, and within it has seeds.

  • Cat and dogs should stay away from the iris plant, especially the iris' rhizomes.

Meanings and Symbolisms

As mentioned earlier, the Iris is also called the Rainbow Flower because of the translation of Iris. It can also be translated as 'messenger'. In Greek mythology, the Goddess Iris became a messenger between heaven and earth as she connected both worlds like a rainbow. For the flower itself, it embraces the same idea of Greek mythology, as it brought the souls from earth to heaven.

In Japanese culture, the Iris purifies evil spirits and energies to protect the one who's wearing it. You will see an iris symbol in many kimono fabrics, and paintings! For Chinese cultures, they view the iris as a butterfly flowing in the wind as the bloomed iris mimics a fluttering butterfly.

As for colours and symbolism:

  • Purple irises: Compliments and wisdom, royalty and power

  • Yellow irises: Passion

  • White irises: Purity, mainly seen in bridal arrangements

Other symbolism the iris can hold would be a sign of...

  • friendship, promise, faith, hope, courage, admiration

Additional cool facts on the Iris plant

  • The Fleur-De-Lis is a decorative symbol of the Iris, mainly associated with France during its monarchial period.

  • The Iris is seen as a flower for royalty and power.

  • The yellow Iris is also known as the 'Yellow Flag'. It was chosen by Wigtownshire as their county's flower. It holds the flower's bright nature in its marshy hollows.

  • The Yellow flag iris is also an invasive species and asked to stop planting these flowers.

  • Irises can be grown pretty easily, even if it was a piece of the rhizome or pods.

Don't forget!

If you live in the GTA or surrounding regions in Toronto, contact me Here or on Instagram/ Facebook for beautifully designed fresh flower bouquets!

You can also check out more of my work here!

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