Irises

Dutch Iris Stinking Iris Yellow Iris Bearded Iris

What are they?

Irises are typically either herbaceous perennials with spreading root stocks that flower in summer, or arise from bulbs and flower in spring. Most species have sword-like or broadly grass-like leaves and are similar to members of the lily family in many ways.

Where are they found?

Both herbaceous and bulb irises are popular garden plants and may be found as relics or 'escapes' from cultivation in grassy or disturbed places such as roadsides, cemeteries (where they may spread voluntarily from original plantings) and urban environments. Our native species are plants of wet ground, shady places and churchyards.

Identification

The structure of iris flowers readily sets them apart from the flowers of other plant families. The three outer petals (technically called tepals in this group) have narrow bases and broad, flattened distal parts - in horticulture these are called 'falls'. The three inner tepals are smaller and erect (and are often called 'standards'). The species in our area can be identified by studying their flowers and details of the leaf shape.



Yellow Iris      Iris pseudacorus

Native. Generally found in wetland habitats, especially around ponds and in swamp woodland, but sometimes also found as a garden relic or throw-out in drier places. Flowers late May to July. Can be told from yellow forms of Bearded Iris by the greener (not blue-green) leaves which are not as stiff as those of Bearded Iris.

Yellow Iris Yellow Iris Yellow Iris Yellow Iris
Habit
Flower
Flower
Seed capsules


Stinking Iris      Iris foetidissima

Locally native in shady places and woodland, but also widespread as a garden escape and (especially) in churchyards. Flowers May to June. Flowers an unusual colour and difficult to describe, being pale creamy-yellow to brownish-yellow with veins coloured in varying intensities of purple; the overall effect is a rather 'muddy' flower from a distance.

Stinking Iris Stinking Iris Stinking Iris Stinking Iris
Flower
Flower
Leaf
Seed capsules


Bearded Iris      Iris germanica

Widely grown as a garden plant and occasionally found as a garden throw-out on roadsides and in waste places. Flowers May to June, sometimes later. Flowers of garden cultivars come in an amazing array of colours from white through pink to deep maroon, purple, blue or yellow, while many are bicoloured.

Bearded Iris Bearded Iris Bearded Iris Bearded Iris
Habit
Large, showy flowers
Large, showy flowers
Leaves


Siberian Iris      Iris sibirica

Occasionally grown as a garden plant and rarely found as a garden throw-out. Flowers May to June. Smaller and more delicate than Bearded Iris and other garden cultivars.

Siberian Iris Siberian Iris
Flower
Seed capsules


Pyrenean Iris      Iris latifolia

(English Iris) Native to the Pyrenees. Occasionally grown as a garden plant and once found naturalised at Hingham, Norfolk. Flowers May to June. Flowers a rich, clear blue. Leaves, which are not flattened like those of most other large iris species, die down in winter.

Pyrenean Iris Pyrenean Iris Pyrenean Iris Pyrenean Iris
Habit
Flower
Flower close-up
Flower close-up


Dutch Iris      Iris x hollandica

Occasionally grown as a garden plant and rarely found as a garden throw-out. Flowers May to June. Large, showy flowers that can be white, or any shade of blue or purple. More often grown commercially for cut flowers than as a garden plant and doesn't seem to persist long in the wild.

Dutch Iris Dutch Iris
Flower
Flower close-up


Reticulate Dwarf Iris      Iris reticulata

Commonly grown as a garden plant and popular for planting in cemeteries. Though not officially recorded 'in the wild' in East Anglia, this species is common enough to attract the attention of anyone studying plants in the area. Flowers late February to March. Small plants, to only 30cm or so high, growing from bulbs and often forming discreet clumps.

Reticulate Dwarf Iris Reticulate Dwarf Iris Reticulate Dwarf Iris
Flowers
Flower
Flower close-up