Herbs & Plants

Iris setosa

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Botanical Name : Iris setosa
Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Iridoideae
Tribe: Irideae
Genus: Iris
Subgenus: Limniris
Series: Tripetalae
Species: Iris setosa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales

Common Name: Iris, Beachhead,Beachhead iris, Beach-head iris, Wild flag iris, Alaska iris

Habitat : Native to USA.  It’s range is from the Arctic sea, including Alaska, Maine, Canada (including British Columbia, Newfoundland, Quebec and Yukon), Russia (including Siberia), northeastern Asia, China, Korea and southwards to Japan. It grows in moist ground on rocky shores, beachheads and headlands on the coastal plain.

These are vigorous Perennial plants with strong, sword-like foliage about 2 ft. in height.  It has tall branching stems, mid green leaves and violet, purple-blue, violet-blue, blue, to lavender flowers. There are also pink and white forms. It is one of the three Iris species in the Iris flower data set outlined by Ronald Fisher in his 1936 paper “The use of multiple measurements in taxonomic problems” as an example of linear discriminant analysis.



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.

Iris setosa has a deep White , Blue , Purple   flower, bloom during May, June.. The sepals are deeply-veined dark purple with a yellow-white signal. The petals are very reduced in size, not exceeding the base of the sepals. Beachhead iris flowers in late spring, on a one flowered inflorescence. The leaves are stiff, narrow and green, with a purplish tinged base. The leaves are up to 12 inches high. The leaves arise from shallowly rooted, large, branching rhizomes forming clumps.

Prefers a well-drained moist soil but succeeds in most soils. Dislikes lime and dry soils. The form from N. Hokkaido does not require an acid soil. Cultivated for its edible root in Japan. Many named forms have been selected for their ornamental value. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Suitable for cut flowers.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. 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, best done in September after flowering. 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

Edible Uses: ....Coffee………Root -….Some Inuit tribes in Alaska also roasted and ground the seeds of the iris to be used as a coffee substitute.. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Roasted and ground seed is a coffee substitute.
Despite the toxicity of the root, it can be bounded into an edible starch that loses its poisonous when cooked. It is cultivated in Japan for its edible root.

Landscape Uses  :   Container, Massing, Specimen.

Medicinal Uses:
It is occasionally listed as a medicinal herb.  Herbalists have used the rhizome for centuries as an ingredient in various medicines, (similar to the usage of Orris roots). The Aleut (Alaskian eskimo tribe) also made a drink from the roots, to be used as a laxative,  but the Iñupiat considered the whole plant poisonous.  It is used to make a tincture, when used in small amounts to help sooth lymphatic swelling. It can be combined with arnica as an herbal oil to relieve bruises.

Other Uses:  ...Dye..……A dye is obtained from the petals, but the colour is not specified . The flower petals can be used to create a violet-blue dye, when it is used with a chrome mordant (or fixing agent). They are also were used as a grass dye for baskets.  The rhizomes can also be used to extract a perfume (similar to the essence of violets).

Known Hazards :Iris setosa is poisonous (all the plant). The rhizome contains iridin which is an oleoresin. This substance can affect the liver and digestive organs. It can cause allergic reactions such as severe rashes. It can also cause vomiting or diarrhoea.  It was used in an ingredient in a poison to put on arrowheads.

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.


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