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Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia
Iris tenax Douglas ex Lindl.
Toughleaf iris, Tough-leaf iris, Oregon iris
USDA Symbol: irte
USDA Native Status: L48 (N)
A tufted perennial with narrow, grass-like leaves and showy flowers on thin, wand-like stems to 14 in. tall. Leaves slightly exceed the flower stem in height. The flower of this species shows considerable variation in color, from white to deep purple. Large, delicate, lavender to deep purple (sometimes white, rarely yellow) flowers, commonly with dark violet veins, grow at top of short stalks in dense clumps of narrow, tough leaves about the same height. Flowers usually occur singly but sometimes in pairs.
In the Willamette Valley of Oregon these handsome flowers provide brilliant color displays along highways. Tenax, Latin for tenacious, refers to the tough leaves; Native Americans used fibers from the edges of the leaves of some western species to make strong, pliable rope and cord.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf:
Yellow-Green Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Pink , Yellow , Purple
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
, WA Canada: BC Native Distribution:
s. to s.w. OR; intermittent to n. CA
as var. klamathensis Native Habitat:
Open prairies; logged land; open areas in oak & conifer forests
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Drier, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Good rock garden plant. Does not spread quickly, but will form large clumps.
Some Iris species are known to be poisonous to humans and animals if eaten (especially the rhizome,
or root), and it is likely that all irises contain toxins. Plant juices can cause blisters on the skin. 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. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.) Conspicuous Flowers:
PropagationSeed Collection: Easily collected from the large capsules.
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Oregon Native Plant Nursery
- Woodburn, OR
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Native Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
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Record Last Modified: 2009-03-04
Research By: TWC Staff