Iris versicolor L.

blue iris

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Blue iris has an attractive deep blue to purple, rarely white flower. It was widely used medicinally by Native Americans externally on burns, wounds, swellings and sores, and internally for liver and kidney disease, among other uses.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), marshes, meadows and fields, shores of rivers or lakes, wetland margins (edges of wetlands)

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf arrangement
  • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
  • basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
Leaf blade shape
  • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
  • the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
Leaf blade length
100–800 mm
Flower petal color
  • blue to purple
  • white
Flower petal length
20–50 mm
Petal fusion
the perianth parts are fused to form a tube, cup, or bell shape
Inflorescence type
the inflorescence is a monochasial cyme (an axis with a terminal flower, below it a branch with a terminal flower, this branch may itself have a branch and so on)
Ovary position
the ovary is below the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
Fruit type (specific)
the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
Fruit length
15–60 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Axillary bulblets
    there are no bulblets being produced in axils
  • Flowers
    Anther attachment
    the anther is attached by its base to the filament
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused (the number of carpels equals the number of locules)
    Flower bracts
    there are bracts associated with the flower
    Flower number
    2–4
    Flower orientation
    the flowers point upward or spread or curve outward
    Flower petal color
    • blue to purple
    • white
    Flower petal length
    20–50 mm
    Flower shape
    the flower has a funnel-shaped corolla tube
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Form of style
    the style is branched above the base
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are not fringed
    Hairs on flower stalk
    the flower stalk has no hairs on it
    Inflorescence type
    the inflorescence is a monochasial cyme (an axis with a terminal flower, below it a branch with a terminal flower, this branch may itself have a branch and so on)
    Length of flower stalk
    20–80 mm
    Marks on petals
    the petals have spots or streaks on them
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of carpels
    3
    Number of pistils
    1
    Number of sepals and/or petals
    there are six petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is below the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal base
    the petal narrows abruptly at the base
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are fused to form a tube, cup, or bell shape
    Petal hairs on inner/upper surface
    there are no hairs on the inner/upper petal surface
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble petals in color and texture
    Sepal length
    40–72 mm
    Sepal orientation
    the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the plant
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Spathe
    • the plant does not have a spathe
    • the plant has a spathe surrounding the flower spike
    Spathe form
    NA
    Spathe length
    30–60 mm
    Stamen number
    3
    Stamen position relative to petals
    the stamens are lined up with the sepals
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
    Stamens fused outwards
    the stamens are not fused to the petals or tepals
    Style length
    30–35 mm
    Style petal-like
    the style is broad and flattened like a petal
    Tepals
    the petals and sepals are different in size and color
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule ridges
    there are three ribs or wings on the capsule
    Fruit compartments
    there are three locules in the fruit
    Fruit cross-section
    • the fruit is roughly triangular in cross-section
    • the fruit is round in cross-section
    Fruit length
    15–60 mm
    Fruit stalk orientation
    the fruits point upward or spread or curve outward
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Other markings on berry
    NA
  • Glands or sap
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Root septa
    the roots do not have transverse septa
    Underground organs
    • the plant has a rhizome (a horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
    • there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Leaf arrangement
    • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    • basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
    Leaf blade basal lobes
    the leaf blades do not have basal lobes
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section
    Leaf blade faces
    the surfaces of the leaf blade are composed of tissues from the abaxial side only
    Leaf blade form
    Fully-formed (i.e., expanded), +/- green leaf blades are found somewhere on the plant
    Leaf blade length
    100–800 mm
    Leaf blade orientation
    the edge of the leaf blade faces the stem of the plant
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade veins
    the lateral veins are parallel or slightly arched in the direction of the tip
    Leaf blade width
    10–30 mm
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Leaflet number
    0
    Stipule twining
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on this plant
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of wetlands
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • marshes
    • meadows or fields
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the leaves have no particular smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Flowering stem growth form
    the flowering stem is held upright
    Flowering stem interior
    the flowering stem is solid
    Flowering stem leaves
    there is at least one fully-formed leaf on the flowering stem

Wetland Status

Occurs only in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: OBL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Maine
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes and no (some introduced)

Sometimes Confused With

Iris sibirica:
leaf blades 4–6 mm wide, stems hollow, and petals 12–20 mm wide (vs. I. versicolor, with leaf blades 10–30 mm wide, stems solid, and petals 8–12 mm wide).
Iris hookeri:
petals inconspicuous, 1–2 cm long, tipped by a bristle, strongly involute in the basal portion, the margins often nearly or fully touching and +/- forming a tube (vs. I. versicolor, with petals conspicuous, 2–5 cm long, without an apical bristle, weakly involute in the basal portion and merely forming a shallow trough).

Family

Iridaceae

Genus

Iris

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

10.  Iris versicolor L. N

blue iris. CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Marshes, river and lake shores, wet meadows, ditches. 
 Iris versicolor is the natural hybrid of I. hookeri and I. virginica.