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Iris setosa (Beachhead iris)
Hampton, Nan

Iris setosa

Iris setosa Pall. ex Link

Beachhead Iris, Beach-head Iris, Wild Flag Iris, Alaska Iris

Iridaceae (Iris Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

These are vigorous plants with strong, sword-like foliage about 2 ft. in height. The iris flowers are purple-blue, usually of a very dark shade, but occasionally pale lavender and intermediate shades. Flowers are 3-6 in. wide.

A member of the iris family (family Iridaceae) which consists of herbs growing from rhizomes, bulbs, or corms, with narrow basal leaves and showy clusters at the tips of long stalks. There are about 60 genera and 1,500 species, distributed in temperate and tropical regions. Among them, Iris, Freesia, Gladiolus, Bugle Lily, and Montbretia are popular ornamentals. Saffron dye is obtained from Crocus, and "essence of violets," used in perfumes, is extracted from the rhizomes of Iris.


From the Image Gallery

14 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Blue , Purple , Violet
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug


Canada: BC , NB , NL , NS , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Far northwestern North America (Alaska, Yukon, and British Columbia), mostly along the coasts, west to coastal eastern Asia as far south as Japan.
Native Habitat: Shores; meadows; marshes

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Wet
Soil Description: Wet to mesic soils.
Conditions Comments: Blooms usually occur one month after snows disappear.


Use Wildlife: Hummingbirds
Warning: 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.)

Attracts: Hummingbirds


Description: Propagate by seed or rhizome division. Divisions should have at least one strong bud and should be taken in spring. Sow seeds when ripe. Transplant seedlings as soon as they are big enough to handle. Seedlings usually flower in the third year.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

Status: FAC
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.

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Iris setosa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Iris setosa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Iris setosa


Record Modified: 2023-01-10
Research By: TWC Staff

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