Iris cristata

Botanical Name : Iris cristata
Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Iridoideae
Tribe: Irideae
Genus: Iris
Subgenus: Limniris
Section: Lophiris
Species: I. cristata
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales

Common Names: Crested Iris, Dwarf crested iris

Habitat :Iris cristata is native to Eastern N. America – Maryland to Ohio, south to Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri. It grows in rich woods, wooded bottoms and ravines, usually in calcareous soils.

Description:
Iris cristata is a Herbaceous perennial plant. This dwarf crested iris is a low-growing, rapidly spreading plant that typically grows to 3-6” tall. It features pale blue, lilac or lavender iris flowers with gold crests on the falls. Flowers are borne on very short stems, often appearing nearly stemless. Narrow, sword-shaped, yellowish-green to medium green leaves (to 6” long) arise from a network of branching rhizomes. Spreads quickly and forms dense colonies in optimum growing conditions. Native from Maryland to Oklahoma south to Georgia and Mississippi. In Missouri, it typically occurs on rocky, wooded slopes, on bluffs and along streams in the southeastern Ozark region (Steyermark). When in flower, a well-developed bed can produce a spectacular drift of blue color

 

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Flowers light blue to light violet, complicated in structure with petals and sepals all showy. Flower with 3 lower “sepals” hanging downward, base with a yellow shoehorn-like appendage (crest). “Sepals” not heavily veined with violet but with a basal patch of yellow. Upper 3 “petals” narrow and pointing generally upward. Seed pods elongate, ovate. Leaves relatively short and broad, embracing the stem, particularly those near the top of the plant..Flowering period: April to May.

Cultivation:
Landscape Uses:Alpine garden, Container, Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Woodland garden. Requires a light or gravelly lime-free soil of a woodland nature in partial shade or full sun. Likes plenty of moisture in summer but the soil must be well-drained. Grows well on a peat bank. Plants are hardy to about -20°c. Another report says that it is best if the plants are lifted intact in October, stored in sand and planted out in March. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer and rabbits. Plants require protection from slugs. Frequent division and transplanting every other year is necessary if the plant is to thrive and persist. Special Features:North American native, Naturalizing, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Suitable for cut flowers.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It does not require cold stratification. Stored seed should be sown as early in the year as possible in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first year. Plant out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Division in July/August. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

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History:
Legend attributes the use of the yellow iris by the French monarchs to Clovis, the King of the Franks from 481 to 511 and the founder of Frankish state.  During a campaign against Alaric, the King of Aquitaine, Clovis was seeking a ford across a river for his army. A deer was frightened by the soldiers, and crossed the river at a ford that was thus revealed to Clovis. On the far side, he found a yellow iris that he put on his helmet as a testament to his good fortune which continued through to his defeat of Alaric near Poitiers in 507.  This story is almost certainly apocryphal, as the fleur-de-lis was first used as a heraldic symbol by King Phillipe II in 1180 and adopted as the French royal standard with three golden fleurs-de-lis on an azure background by King Charles the Wise in 1376.  But, like George Washington and the cheery tree, it is a good story.

In Greek mythology, Iris was the anthropomorphized goddess of the rainbow. She served as a messenger for the gods in general, but primarily for Hera, the wife and sister of Zeus. She was thus the female counterpart of Hermes (Mercury in Roman mythology).  In that a rainbow extends from the heavens to the earth, it was believed in Ancient Greece that this phenomenon afforded a means of communication between gods and mortals.  Accordingly, whenever a rainbow appeared, Iris was bringing a message from Olympus to a mortal or to a god on a terrestrial mission.  She had several collateral duties.  She led the souls of dead women to the Elysian Fields which gave rise to the custom of planting irises on the graves of women.  She also brought water from the River Styx which was used as a means of certifying the veracity of the gods. If they drank it after taking a solemn oath, they were rendered unconscious for one year if they had lied. Iris was married to Zephyrus, the god of the west wind and, according to some accounts, the mother of Eros, the god of love. There is a metaphorical appeal to the notion of love being a child born of the rainbow and the wind.

Edible Uses:….Root – used as a spice. Frequently chewed by local people to alleviate thirst. When first chewed the roots have a pleasant sweet taste, within a few minutes this changes to a burning sensation far more pungent than capsicums. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Medicinal Uses: It is notable for its medicinal uses as well as for its toxic effects. Native Americans used the root in a poultice to treat sores and to make a tea that was a laxative and an emetic. It was adopted by early medical practitioners who used small, frequent doses to stimulate the bowels and the kidneys, and to otherwise “cleanse the blood.”  As with many medicinal treatments derived from plants, the chemical that provides the palliative effect in small doses is toxic if consumed in quantity. The blue flag contains furfural which can cause nausea and iridin, a powerful hepatic stimulant. Livestock have been poisoned when grazing in wild iris.

An ointment made from the roots is applied to cancerous ulcers. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of hepatitis.

Other Use:Charming blue flowers float above sword-shaped leaves in spring. Use this beautiful but tough plant to edge a shady garden or path. It is also an effective, slow moving ground cover that provides tremendous shelter for small animals.

Known Hazards: Many plants in this genus are thought to be poisonous if ingested, so caution is advised[65]. The roots are especially likely to be toxic[238]. Plants can cause skin irritations and allergies in some people.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.nearctica.com/flowers/iton/iris/Icrist.htm
http://www.abnativeplants.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=plants.plantdetail&plant_id=79
http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?code=K690
http://sneezypb.livejournal.com/322957.html
http://www.sierrapotomac.org/W_Needham/DwarfIris_050605.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Iris+cristata

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