P1020499Iris virginica L.


Native L 48, Canada

Blooming:  April, May, purple

Location: N 30 00 209′, W 084 33 548′ (1.7RL), N 30 00 830′, W 084 34 449′ (3.8 RL).

The flower of the iris attracts large bumble bees, flies, skipper butterflies, moths and other insects.  The iris rely on both seeds and rhizomes for propogation.

Cherokees used the root as a salve for ulcers, infusion for liver health, and a decoction from root for “yellowish urine.”

Iris was a goddess in the Greek Pantheon who acted as a messenger between the denizens of Olympus and humans on earth.  Her presence was always noted with a rainbow and ancient Greeks interpreted a rainbow as a message being transmitted by Iris from a god to a human.   Because she was also responsible for guiding women’s souls after death, iris were often planted on graves.

The symbol of the iris was used by royalty as early as the  Eygyptian pharoahs and from Clovis of the Franks to Louis VII embarking on the Crusades.   Fleur-de-louis (Flower of Louis) became “fleur-de-lys”, “fleur-de-luce”, or  “fleur-de-lis”, a symbol associated with France.

While the blue flag iris is native to the US, there are many species of Iris in the world, which appear in many colors.  The yellow iris, seen on riverbanks in other areas of the  US, are not native.

The resin in the tubers, if over ingested, is dangerous.  Iridin or Irisin, used as a diuretic was once produced from the plant.  In India the root is still used today to combat obesity and it is believed that the chemicals may be able to increase the rate of consumption of fat into waste.   Orris root is iris root. The iris root was dried which then smells like violets.  Ground orris roots were put into pomander balls to perfume the air.   Witches used the powder to induce abortions.   Iris roots are still used as fragrances.

Blue flag flowers, when mixed with water, produces a blue dye which, like litmus paper, will turn red when exposed to acid, or back to blue when re-exposed to an alkali.

Because it grows in areas where sunlight is at a premium, both sides of the iris leaf can assimilate light, unlike other broad-leafed plants.

There are not as many patches of blue flag iris on Womack creek compared with Crooked River just 2 miles downriver,  where there are large stands.  Look for stands on Womack Creek where there are patches of sunlight on the forest floor.    They bloom earlier on the Crooked River, the river in Tate’s Hell which connects the Ochlockonee, south of Womack creek, to the Carrabelle/New River on the west side of Tate’s Hell State Forest.

We expect to see more Iris blooming in 2014  on Womack Creek because so many of the large trees have fallen in 2013 opening up more areas exposed to sun.