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Iris versicolor L.
Harlequin blueflag, Northern blue flag
USDA Symbol: IRVE2
A graceful, sword-leaved plant similar to the garden iris, with showy, down-curved, violet, boldly veined sepals. Several violet-blue flowers with attractively veined and yellow-based sepals are on a sturdy stalk among tall sword-like leaves that rise from a basal cluster. Flowers may be any shade of purple, but are always decorated with yellow on the falls. Grows 2-3 ft. tall.
This is a showy native iris of northeastern wetlands. Insects attracted to the sepals must crawl under the tip of a style and brush past a stigma and stamen, thus facilitating pollination. A similar southern wetland species, occurring from Virginia to Florida and Texas, is Southern Blueflag (I. virginica). It is a smaller plant, to 2 (60 cm) tall, with bright green leaves that often lie on the ground or water. A coastal, brackish-water species, Slender Blueflag (I. prismatica) has extremely narrow, grass-like leaves that are less than 1/4 (6 mm) wide; it occurs from Maine to Georgia and Tennessee. The name flag is from the middle English flagge, meaning rush or reed.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Flower:
Green, Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Blue , Purple
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug
Bloom Notes: Rarely white.
, WI Canada: MB
, SK Native Distribution:
S. Lab. to Man, s. to w. VA,
n. OH, MI
& MN Native Habitat:
Meadows; stream banks; marshes; swamps
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Moist, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Even though it can tolerate complete submergence, this iris can be easily grown in most gardens. It is not a demanding plant. Once established, it will spread by self-seeding and extension of its rhizomes.
Poisonous to livestock.
POISONOUS PARTS: Rhizomes (thickened roots) and rootstocks, fresh or dry. Minor skin irritation when touched, low toxicity if ingested. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, elevated temperature following ingestion; skin irritation upon contact with seeds, rootstock, or cell sap. Toxic Principle: Irisin, iridin, or irisine.
of the Blue Flag is poisonous, but was used by colonists, with guidance from Indian people, for various healing purposes. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Through the years, iris flowers have symbolized power, with the three parts representing wisdom, faith and courage. (Kershaw)
Irises have been used medicinally in the past, but their rootstocks are dangerously poisonous. Some tribes used the two outermost fibres of the leaves to spin strong, very fine, highly esteemed twine. Powdered iris root, called orris, smells like violets and has been added to perfume and potpourri. (Kershaw) Conspicuous Flowers:
Birds , Hummingbirds
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Native plants to stop pond bank erosion
June 04, 2008
I recently purchased a home with a small pond in which a nearby stream daylights. The former owner placed large field stone around the pond and the small stream; however, the area around the pond and...
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National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2012-10-03
Research By: TWC Staff