Irises are flowering plants with showy flowers that belongs to the iris family.
There are 260 to 300 species of iris.
It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, which is also the name for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris.
As well as being the scientific name, iris is also very widely used as a common name for all Iris species, as well as some belonging to other closely related genera.
Most of iris species originate from temperate parts of Europe and Asia.
Although diverse in ecology, Iris is predominantly found in dry, semi-desert, or colder rocky mountainous areas, other habitats include grassy slopes, meadowlands, bogs and riverbanks.
People cultivate iris for thousands of years.
Irises come in many forms, shapes, colors and sizes and the sword-like foliage is attractive when the plant is not in bloom.
Irises are perennial plants which means that it can survive more than 2 years in the wild.
They growing from creeping rhizomes (rhizomatous irises) or, in drier climates, from bulbs (bulbous irises).
They have long, erect flowering stems which may be simple or branched, solid or hollow, and flattened or have a circular cross-section. Stem that can reach from 20 to 96 centimeters (8 to 38 inches) in height depending on the species.
Iris produces 3 to 10, sword-shaped leaves arranged in the form of clumps around the stem. Leaves are bluish-green colored, hairless and smooth on the edges.
Iris can produce white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, lavender, blue or brown colored flowers. Individual flowers consist of three upward oriented petals known as “standards” and three downward oriented sepals (which look like petals) known as “falls”. Drooping sepals can be covered with “beard” (fuzzy appendage).
The falls serves as a “landing pad” for pollinators. Notice how the falls in the flower has bright lines
leading into the blossom’s mouth. These serve as nectar guides, directing pollinators toward the nectar.
Each stem produces 9 to 12 flowering buds that grow on the short side branches, and each flower lasts about three days over a total bloom time of about a month. Iris blooms during the spring and summer months, and attracts various insects responsible for the pollination of flowers.
The iris fruit is a capsule which opens up in three parts to reveal the numerous seeds within. In some species, the seeds bear an aril.
The iconic shape and multitude or color variations of iris flowers have charmed gardeners for centuries.
With striking uniqueness and beauty, irises have rich meanings, and when given as gifts, they can convey deep sentiments.
Iris symbolizes eloquence. Purple iris is symbolic of wisdom and compliments. Blue iris symbolizes faith and hope. Yellow iris symbolizes passion while white iris symbolizes purity.
Bearded Iris and Siberian Iris are two of the most common types of irises grown.
Iris garden in Florence, Italy and Presby Memorial Iris Garden in New Jersey [pic. below] are the two largest gardens in the world dedicated to the cultivation of iris.
In the ancient world, the Indian and Egyptian cultures were among those that used iris rhizomes for medicinal purposes and for the manufacture of perfume. Perfumes were applied as offerings to the gods, and iris byproducts like orris roots were thrown onto fires to create scents that would be pleasing to the gods.
Centuries later, the practice of using dried iris rhizomes was a major industry in 19th-century Florence, Italy. The iris became the emblem of Florence. In neighboring Germany, orris roots were hung in barrels of beer to keep the beer fresh. The same applied to casks of wine in France.
Today Iris essential oil (absolute) from flowers are sometimes used in aromatherapy as sedative medicines.
Juice squeezed from the plant can be used to improve condition of the skin. Orris root can be used for the purification of the body because it contains substances with laxative, diuretic and emetic properties.
During the Middle Ages, the meaning of irises became linked to the French monarchy, and the Fleur-de-lis eventually became the recognized national symbol of France.
A flower on the Sphinx is considered to be an Iris.
The artist Vincent van Gogh painted several famous pictures of irises.
The iris is the February birth flower.