Herbs & Plants


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Botanical Name :Iris
Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Iridoideae
Tribe: Irideae
Genus: Iris
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales

Common Name :Flags or junos

Habitat: The plant is a native of Southern Europe, very frequent in Italy, apart from its cultivation there, and is also cultivated in Morocco. In England, this German Flag or Flag Iris is by far the commonest of the family in gardens and justly deserves its popularity, for it will grow and flower well in the most unpromising situations and will bear with apparent equanimity hardships that few other plants would endure without loss of vitality. It is not moisture-loving – ordinary border soil, well cultivated, suits it well and the heavy clay soils are more or less inimical to its growth. If the best results are to be obtained, deep and rich beds should be prepared for these Irises, for they will well repay liberal treatment by the production of larger and more numerous flowers. Although they may be moved at any time of the year, April is the best month. They will not flower the same year, but they will during the summer, if attended to, become sufficiently strong to bloom freely the succeeding year. Winter is the worst time to move them, as in heavy soil, the plants often remain dormant without forming a single root-fibre until the spring. But they are easily increased in spring by dividing the root-stocks and replanting and watering into rich soil.

The German Iris, or Flag Iris of the nurseryman as it now exists, is a compound of many species and more varieties, as hybridization has been extensively carried on for many years.

Iris is a genus of 260–300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. They are perennial plants, growing from creeping rhizomes (rhizomatous irises) or, in drier climates, from bulbs (bulbous irises). They have long, erect flowering stems which may be simple or branched, solid or hollow, and flattened or have a circular cross-section. The rhizomatous species usually have 3–10 basal sword-shaped leaves growing in dense clumps. The bulbous species have cylindrical, basal leaves. CLICK & SEE

The inflorescences are fan-shaped and contain one or more symmetrical six-lobed flowers. These grow on a pedicel or lack a footstalk. The three sepals, which are spreading or droop downwards, are referred to as “falls”. They expand from their narrow base, which in some of the rhizomatous irises has a “beard” (a tuft of short upright extensions growing in its midline), into a broader expanded portion (“limb”), often adorned with veining, lines or dots. The three, sometimes reduced, petals stand upright, partly behind the sepal bases. They are called “standards”. Some smaller iris species have all six lobes pointing straight outwards, but generally limb and standards differ markedly in appearance. They are united at their base into a floral tube that lies above the ovary (known as an epigynous or inferior ovary). The styles divide towards the apex into petaloid branches; this is significant in pollination.


The iris flower is of interest as an example of the relation between flowering plants and pollinating insects. The shape of the flower and the position of the pollen-receiving and stigmatic surfaces on the outer petals form a landing-stage for a flying insect, which in probing for nectar, will first come into contact with the perianth, then with the stigmatic stamens in one whorled surface which is borne on an ovary formed of three carpels. The shelf-like transverse projection on the inner whorled underside of the stamens is beneath the overarching style arm below the stigma, so that the insect comes in contact with its pollen-covered surface only after passing the stigma; in backing out of the flower it will come in contact only with the non-receptive lower face of the stigma. Thus, an insect bearing pollen from one flower will, in entering a second, deposit the pollen on the stigma; in backing out of a flower, the pollen which it bears will not be rubbed off on the stigma of the same flower.

The iris fruit is a capsule which opens up in three parts to reveal the numerous seeds within. In some species, these bear an aril.

Medicinal and  other uses:

Constituents:The chief constituent of Orris root is the oil of Orris 0.1 to 0.2 per cent), a yellowish-white to yellow mass, containing about 85 per cent of odourless myristic acid, which appears to be liberated from a fat present in the rhizome during the process of steam distillation. Oil of Orris is known commercially as Orris Butter.

Other constituents are fat, resin, a large quantity of starch, mucilage, bitter extractive and a glucoside named Iridin, which is not to be confused with the powdered extracti Iridin or Irisin, prepared from the rhizome of the American plant I. versicolor, by precipitating a tincture of the drug with water and mixing the precipitate with an equal weight of powdered liquorice root, or other absorbent powder.

The odorous constituent of oil of Orris is a liquid ketone named Irone, to which the violet-like odour is due (though it is not absolutely identical with oil of Violets obtained from the natural flower), and it is the presence of this principle in the rhizome that has long led to the employment of powdered Orris root in the preparation of Violet powders, which owe very little of their scent to the real Violet perfume. It was first isolated by the eminent chemist Tiemann and formed the basis of his researches on artificial Violet perfume, and in 1893 he succeeded in preparing an allied body, which was termed Ionone and which had an odour even more like that of Violets than had Irone, and is now largely manufactured for the perfumery trade in making toilet waters and handkerchief extracts. The discovery of Ionone, which costs about one-eighth of the natural oil of Violets, has popularized Violet perfume to an enormous extent: most of the cheaper Violet perfumes on the market contain no trace of true Violet, but are made entirely with the artificial Ionone.

Otto of Orris is a golden-yellow oily liquid, which contains the odorous principles of the concrete oil of the rhizome without the solid, fatty inodorous constituents.

The important industry of Orris root still requires the light of scientific research to be thrown upon the life history of the plant to determine the conditions under which the largest percentage of the volatile oil can be developed.

Orris Root is rarely employed in medicine at the present time.

The fresh root possesses diuretic, emetic and cathartic properties. If given in large doses, it will occasion nausea, vomiting, purging and colic.

The drug was formerly employed in the treatment of bronchitis and chronic diarrhoea, and was considered a useful remedy in dropsy. The internal dose is stated to be from 5 to 15 grains.

The starch of the rhizome was formerly reckoned medicinal.

The dried powder is said to act as a good snuff, useful to excite sneezing to relieve cases of congested headache.

Pieces of the dried root are occasionally chewed for the purpose of overcoming a disagreeable breath.

The principal use of the dried root is, however, in perfumery, in sachet powders and to flavour dentifrices, toothpowders and cachous.

Oil of Orris, obtained by distilling powdered Orris root with steam, has an intense and extremely delicate odour of the fresh Violet and commands a high price. It is used commercially in the preparation of the finest scents and is also blended with artificial Violet perfumes, the odour of which it renders more subtle. Orris has the power of strengthening the odour of other fragrant bodies and is used as a fixative in perfumery.

Powdered Orris root is sometimes put into rinsing water in laundries and imparts a refreshing and fragrant scent to the linen.

Orris root, mixed with Anise, was used in England as a perfume for linen as early as 1480, under which date it is mentioned in the Wardrobe accounts of Edward IV.

One of the most interesting of the MS. still-room books of the later seventeenth century is Mary Doggett: Her Book of Receipts, 1682. In it we find ‘A perfume for a sweet bagg,’ as follows:
‘Take half a pound of Cypress Roots, a pound of Orris, 3 quarter of a pound of Calamus, 3 Orange stick with Cloves, 2 ounces of Benjamin, 3 quarters of a pound of Rhodium, a pound of Coriander seed, and an ounce of Storax and 4 pecks of Damask Rose leaves, a peck of dryed sweet Marjerum, a pretty stick of Juniper shaved very thin, some lemon pele dryed and a stick of Brasill; let all these be powdered very grosely for ye first year and immediately put into your baggs; the next year pound and work it and it will be very good again.’

Dr. Rhind (History of the Vegetable Kingdom, 1868) states that Orris gives the peculiar flavour to artificial brandies made in this country, and the root is much used in Russia to flavour a drink made of honey and ginger which is sold in the streets.

The larger and finer roots are often turned into pretty forms to be used for ornamental purposes, rosary beads, etc., and long pieces of Verona Orris are often shaped for infants’ use when teething. The less handsome rhizomes, as well as the chips, are distilled.

Lyte says ‘the Iris is knowen of the clothworkers and drapers, for with these rootes they use to trimme their clothes to make them sweete and pleasant.’ This was probably the ‘swete clothe’ so celebrated in the reign of Elizabeth.

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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