The Iris Flower, its Meanings and Symbolism
The iris is often associated with royalty and it’s no wonder. This regal flower puts on quite a show in the garden in early to mid-summer. It’s stately blooms range in color from traditional shades of purple and blue to yellow, white, pink, red, chartreuse, brown and nearly black. There is an iris to fit any occasion.
What Does the Iris Flower Mean?
The iris means different things to different people and cultures. Some of its most common meanings are
Etymological Meaning of the Iris Flower
The iris earned its name from the ancient Greek Goddess Iris, a messenger to the gods who was thought to use the rainbow as a bridge between heaven and earth. By some accounts, the ancient Greeks believed the rainbow was actually the flowing, multi-colored robes of Iris. Others believed the beautiful multi-colored flowers were also part of her robe or the flowing veil from her dress. Thus, these flowers were named to honor the Rainbow Goddess and bring favor upon the earth.
Symbolism of the Iris Flower
The ancient Greeks soon began the practice of planting purple iris flowers on the graves of women, believing they would entice the Goddess Iris to lead their loved ones in their journey to heaven.
These stately flowers, as evidenced by their depiction in Egyptian palaces, also enamored Egyptian Kings. The Egyptians were likely influenced by Greek mythology and used the iris to symbolize their connections to heaven.
By the middle ages, France took up the gauntlet and began to use iris flowers to symbolize royalty and power. In fact, it is the iris that inspired the fleur-de-lis, the National symbol for France.
In the United States, the iris is the birth flower for February, the flower for the 25th wedding anniversary and the state flower for Tennessee.
The Iris Flower Facts
Iris is both the common and scientific name for these impressive flowers. There are 325 species and 50,000 registered varieties of irises. These flowers are typically divided into two groups, bearded iris and beardless irises, which include Japanese and Siberian irises. They range from towering flowers of five feet or more to tiny dwarfs less than eight inches tall.
The bearded iris looks like it has a tiny beard, as the “falls” (the lower petals that droop down) are fuzzy. Beardless irises lack the fuzzy appearance. Irises reproduce via swollen roots. While the bearded iris produces a plump tuber, called a rhizome that looks like an oblong potato, others produce small bulbs.
Wild irises, typically blue or purple, grow throughout the United States and are often referred to as blue flag. These irises resemble the Siberian Iris. Florist irises are typically blue or purple and are used as accents in floral bouquets.
Iris Flower Color Meanings
While any iris symbolizes royalty, wisdom and valor, the color of the bloom also affects the message the flower carries.
- Purple – The traditional meaning of purple irises is royalty, but that isn’t its only meaning. Purple can also represent wisdom, respect and compliments.
- Blue – Blue irises are symbolic of hope and faith.
- Yellow – Yellow irises symbolize passion.
- White – White irises expresses purity and innocence.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics of the Iris Flower
The roots of the iris plant have been used medicinally to treat skin infections, syphilis, stomach problems and dropsy. Today the roots are still used to purge the liver. Some alternative medicine uses include using yellow iris to treat dandruff and white iris to treat asthma and bronchitis, as well as use as a diuretic.
The delicate fragrance of iris flower is used in cosmetics and perfumes while the iris flower is used as a compress to treat acne. The roots of the iris contain the fragrance. These roots are dried and ground to produce a powder called orris root. Orris root is used in herbal remedies and as a fixative in potpourri or dried herbs to preserve their fragrance.
The Iris Flower’s Message
The iris flower’s message varies depending on the circumstances and the flower’s color. Purple or blue irises paired with stargazer lilies make a striking display that speaks of love and respect. These distinctive flowers are equally impressive as cut flowers or as the focal point of the flowerbed.