iris |ˈīris| noun
- a flat, colored, ring-shaped membrane behind the cornea of the eye, with an adjustable circular opening (pupil) in the center.
• (also iris diaphragm) an adjustable diaphragm of thin overlapping plates for regulating the size of a central hole, esp. for the admission of light to a lens.
- a plant with sword-shaped leaves and showy flowers, typically purple, yellow, or white. Native to both Eurasia and North America, it is widely cultivated as an ornamental.
• Genus Iris, family Iridaceae (the iris family): many species and numerous hybrids, including the crested dwarf iris ( I. cristata) and the sweet iris ( I. pallida). The iris family also includes the gladioli, crocuses, and freesias.
- a rainbow or a rainbowlike appearance.
verb [ intrans. ]
(of an aperture, typically that of a lens) open or close in the manner of an iris or iris diaphragm.
ORIGIN modern Latin, via Latin from Greek iris ‘rainbow, iris.’
Iris |ˈīris| Greek Mythology
the goddess of the rainbow, who acted as a messenger of the gods.
Iris is a genus of 260–300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colors found among the many species. As well as being the scientific name, iris is also very widely used as a common name for all Iris species, though some plants called thus belong to other closely related genera. A common name for some species is 'flags', while the plants of the subgenus Scorpiris are widely known as 'junos', particularly in horticulture. It is a popular garden flower.
The often-segregated, monotypic genera Belamcanda (blackberry lily), Hermodactylus (snake's head iris), and Pardanthopsis (vesper iris) are currently included in Iris.
Irises are perennial plants, 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. The rhizomatous species usually have 3–10 basal sword-shaped leaves growing in dense clumps. The bulbous species have cylindrical, basal leaves.
The inflorescences are fan-shaped and contain one or more symmetrical six-lobed flowers. These grow on a pedicel or lack a footstalk. The three sepals, which are spreading or droop downwards, are referred to as "falls". They expand from their narrow base, which in some of the rhizomatous irises has a "beard" (a tuft of short upright extensions growing in its midline), into a broader expanded portion ("limb"), often adorned with veining, lines or dots.
The three, sometimes reduced, petals stand upright, partly behind the sepal bases. They are called "standards". Some smaller iris species have all six lobes pointing straight outwards, but generally limb and standards differ markedly in appearance. They are united at their base into a floral tube that lies above the ovary (known as an epigynous or inferior ovary). The styles divide towards the apex into petaloid branches; this is significant in pollination.
Iris Flowers are Poisonous
Iris flower is usually considered poisonous when ingested, so make sure you keep it away from children and that it stays away from your cooking area!
Iris flower is not a very safe herb and this is why you should avoid using it. However, if you have tried it already and you’re experiencing some unusual reactions, like vomiting, fever, nausea, hallucinations and upset stomach, ask for medical assistance as soon as possible and don’t try to treat it yourself.
Freesia Iris Sorbets
As a forager one of the first things you learn is that there isn’t much to offer in the Iris family, or, if it is an Iris beware. Freesia is an exception. A native of South Africa and Australia, it’s an Iris to about 18 inches tall and grows from a bulb. The stem branches once giving it a classic Y shape. One odd thing about the Freesia is that they grow in a helicoid, that is the flowers attach to the stem in a spiral fashion but they all point the same way. Fragrance varies with the variety. And the usual debate is whether it’s a wild plant as it is in its native range or a cultivated plant as most of these readers will find it. Freesias colors include white, purple, yellow, orange and red. In the language of flowers they represent "innocence." The highly scented blossoms are used in salads raw or as a garnish. They are reported to be excellent infused with a sugar syrup, and are used in sorbets for flavoring.
Don’t take iris flower products at all if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, on pain killers, anticoagulants, blood thinners or preparing to enter a major surgery (it may cause heart attacks and strokes). To gather more information and to be well informed of the possible risks, ask your doctor to tell you more about this plant and its uses
Avoid all products based on iris that promise to enhance your creativity and ask your physician to prescribe you medicines for any health complaint. If you have the medical approval to use iris and you are quite skilled when it comes to preparing your own decoctions and tinctures, give iris flower a try, making sure you follow the specifications!
Iris Flower Drinks & Beverages
Gin brands such as Bombay Sapphire and Magellan Gin use orris root and sometimes iris flowers for flavor and color. Bombay Sapphire gin contains flavoring derived from particular bearded iris species.
Iris Flower Health Benefits
Iris flower is rich in many beneficial substances which will enhance your body’s capacity to fight all threats. This being said, the most important active compounds are: acids, vitamins, tannin, volatile oils, minerals (sodium, selenium, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, magnesium and manganese), natural enzymes, nutrients and antioxidants. Be careful, though: if you’re allergic to one or more of these substances, you’ll also be allergic to iris flowers.
The only things prepared from iris flowers are usually perfumes and body lotions, but you can also make an iris flower extract to sooth your skin affections and repair your damaged hair.
If you’re willing to give your cooking skills a chance, just proceed as it follows: smash or tear into pieces about two handfuls of iris flowers, pour them into a glass jar and add vodka or any other type of pure alcohol on it. Seal the jar and place it in a dark and cold room, making sure you shake it from time to time.
It will only be ready for use after two weeks, during which the beneficial properties will be enhanced. When the extract is ready, just pour a few drops on your split ends, acne signs or irritated scalp and gently rub it in. However, considering the high level of toxicity that this plant has, it’s best to replace iris flower with one of the following remedies: chamomile tea, rosemary extract, peppermint decoction, jasmine tincture, raspberry leaf tea, green tea, oolong tea etc.
Usually, preparing any type of herbal decoction is very easy: use a teaspoon of dried or freshly picked herbs for every cup of tea you want to make, add boiling water and wait for 10-15 minutes before drinking it. These teas can be used for internal use, but also for compresses, when it comes to acne, cuts or other skin problems.
Rhizomes of the German Iris (I. germanica) and Sweet Iris (I. pallida) are traded as orris root and are used in perfume and medicine, though more common in ancient times than today. Today Iris essential oil (absolute) from flowers are sometimes used in aromatherapy as sedative medicines. The dried rhizomes are also given whole to babies to help in teething.
For orris root production, iris rhizomes are harvested, dried, and aged for up to 5 years. In this time, the fats and oils inside the roots undergo degradation and oxidation, which produces many fragrant compounds that are valuable in perfumery. The scent is said to be similar to violets. The aged rhizomes are steam-distilled which produces a thick oily compound, known in the perfume industry as "iris butter".
Iris rhizomes also contain notable amounts of terpenes, and organic acids such as ascorbic acid, myristic acid, tridecylenic acid and undecylenic acid. Iris rhizomes can be toxic. Larger Blue Flag (I. versicolor) and other species often grown in gardens and widely hybridized contain elevated amounts of the toxic glycoside iridin. These rhizomes can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or skin irritation, but poisonings are not normally fatal. Irises should only be used medicinally under professional guidance.
If a rhizome is separated into pieces, each piece may be able to give rise to a new plant. The rhizome is used as storage for starches, proteins, and other nutrients by the plant. These nutrients become useful for the plant when new shoots must be formed or when the plant dies back for the winter. This is a process known as vegetative reproduction and is used by farmers and gardeners to propagate certain plants. This also allows for lateral spread of grasses like bamboo and bunch grasses. Examples of plants that are propagated this way include hops, asparagus, ginger, irises, Lily of the Valley, Cannas, and sympodial orchids. Some examples of rhizomes that are used directly in cooking are ginger, turmeric, galangal, and fingerroot.
Some plants have rhizomes that grow above ground or that lie at the soil surface, including some Iris species, and ferns, whose spreading stems are rhizomes. Plants with underground rhizomes include gingers, bamboo, the Venus Flytrap, Chinese lantern, Western poison-oak, hops, and Alstroemeria, and the weeds Johnson grass, bermuda grass, and purple nut sedge. Rhizomes generally form a single layer, but in Giant Horsetails, can be multi-tiered.
In water purification, Flowering Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus) is used at treatment ponds. The roots are usually planted in a substrate (e.g. lava-stone) in a reedbed-setup. The roots then improve water quality by consuming nutrient pollutants, such as from agricultural runoff.
Iris Flower International Cultures
The artist Vincent van Gogh painted several famous pictures of irises.
The artist George Gessert has specialised in breeding irises.
An iris (species unspecified) is one of the state flowers of Tennessee. Tradition holds that the particular iris symbolizing Tennessee is a purple cultivar, to go alongside the wild-growing Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) which is the state's other floral emblem. Greeneville, Tennessee is home to the annual Iris Festival celebrating the Iris, local customs, and culture.
The fleur-de-lis, a stylized iris, first occurs in its modern use as the emblem of the House of Capet. The fleur-de-lis has been associated with France as Louis VII adopted it as a symbol in the 12th Century. The yellow fleur-de-lis reflects the Yellow Iris (I. pseudacorus), common in Western Europe. Contemporary uses can be seen in the Quebec flag and the logo of the New Orleans Saints professional football team, and on the flag of Saint Louis, Missouri.
The red fleur-de-lis in the coat-of-arms of Florence (Italy) descends from the white iris which is native to Florence and which grew even in its city walls. This white iris, displayed against a red background, became the symbol of Florence until the Medici family, to signal a change in political power, reversed the colors making the white one red and setting in motion a centuries-long breeding program to hybridize a red iris.
Furthermore, the fleur-de-lis is the almost-universal symbol of Scouting and one of the symbols adopted by the sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma.
Iris Flower Ancestors
Irises are extensively grown as ornamental plants in home and botanical gardens. Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in New Jersey, for example, is a living iris museum with over 10,000 plants, while in Europe the most famous iris garden is arguably the Giardino dell'Iris in Florence (Italy) which every year hosts one of the most famous iris breeders' competitions in the world. Irises, especially the multitude of bearded types, feature regularly in shows such as the Chelsea Flower Show.
Irises grow in any good free garden soil, the smaller and more delicate species needing only the aid of turf ingredients, either peat or loam, to keep it light and open in texture. The earliest to bloom are species like I. junonia and I. reichenbachii, which flower as early as February and March (Northern Hemisphere), followed by the dwarf forms of I. pumila which blossom in Spring, followed in early Summer by most of the tall bearded varietis, such as the German Iris and its variety florentina, Sweet Iris, Hungarian Iris, Lemon-yellow Iris (I. flavescens), Iris sambucina, I. amoena, and their natural and horticultural hybrids such as those described under names like I. neglecta or I. squalens and best united unter I. × lurida.