Flower of the Day – Iris

Irises form the Iridaceae botanical family.  In Spanish, as in English, the word “iris” may refer to both the flower, or the coloured membrane behind the cornea of the eye.  However, the name “lirio”  is also used to refer to this flower, but sometimes applied to identify lily flowers (more commonly known as azucenas).  To add to the confusion, water lilies are called “lirios acuáticos”, almost an oxymoron, since they belong to a completely different botanical family (Nymphaeaceae).

This confusion seems to be present also in some translations from French.  The French word for lily is “lis”, so the well known French symbol of the “Fleur de Lys” or “Fleur de Lis” leads to think that the stylized 3-petal flower emblem (photo below, left) represents a yellow lily.  However, there is factual evidence to whack this belief without doubt.  One species of wild iris (Iris pseudacorus), known as yellow flag iris (photo below, right), grows wildly in marshes, particularly by the river Lys (Leie), running through France and Belgium; it was only natural that French kings would have the gumption to choose this local flower as one of their emblems, and it is well accepted that the iris flower was named after the river.  Kudos to Spanish speaking people and linguists, who translated the name as “Flor de Lis”  not “Flor del lirio.”

Yellow flag iris in Bagneux, Hauts-de-Seine, France (2012, from Myrabella/Wikimedia Commons)

In my backyard, there is only one type of iris, the bearded iris (Iris germanica), in its very common purple shade (photo at the top of this post.) Originally from Southern Europe, nowadays there are close to 60,000 cultivars of bearded irises, naturalized all over Europe and other countries around the world, and may be found in many different colours and sizes.  Although daffodils and tulips mark the beginning of spring, irises, by any name, are the definite sign of the warm weather season in my gardening zone 6B, so it is now time to transplant tomato, tomatillo, pepper and tender herb seedlings from pots indoors to the ground, and start direct seed sowing of squash, cucumber, and beans in earnest.   

I am joining Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) Challenge for May 23, 2021, featuring a bearded iris!

9 thoughts on “Flower of the Day – Iris

  1. I am down here in the tropics of 5b. May 15th is generally accepted as safe, but I follow the old farmers guide of planting when the oak leaves are about the size of baby mice. where that came from I don’t know but with climate change you’ll soon be in 5b, and I’ll be in four. We’ll all have to learn new guides for planting out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard blooming forsythia means sow carrot seed, and budding apple tree is green light for peas, but oak leaves the size of baby mice? That is the weirdest thing I’ve heard as a gardening reference, LOL. The zone numbers go upwards as it gets warmer, don’t they? Southern Ontario is a very lucky little warm pocket; our last frost day is supposedly at the end of April, but of course that rarely happens and we have to wait until Victoria day (the second last Monday in May) to do all the transplanting.


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