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YELLOW FLAG IRIS : Iris pseudacorus

When seen in mass these are a glorious sight. Yet for the duration of the winter, they are invisible. They die back completely. They fairly common near or even in water. Those along the Leven actually get compeltely flooded over by high waer a few times a year. But in spring, around mid April, the bright green fronds appear to rise up. It is some time before the bright yellow flowers appear. 

They can be known as the yellow iris or the flag iris - or both. Almost all other iriss are combinations of blues and purples. This is by contrast a simple yet striking yellow. The flowers hang and flutter in the breeze, so giving it the flag name. Others know it as Jacob’s Sword  due to its sword-like fronds, or Segg.

It is a popular garden plant, but it can be invasive and may easily take over a pond. To avoid it taking control, try planting it in a basket to keep it contained around the margins of your wildlife pond.

The NRS tells us that the wild flag iris was used as a traditional natural dye for both tartan and tweed. The roots were harvested and processed with bog iron or copperas as a mordant to make either black or dark blue dyes; they were also made into ink. The leaves were also made into dyes for tartans and tweed providing a bright green dye when mixed with alum as mordant.

The roots were also used medicinally in many parts of the Highlands. In Greek mythology Iris was the messenger of the gods and is reputed to have brought the souls of women to the land of Eternal Peace. This could be why they were often planted near graves. (Our native iris such as this one are bright yellow. The one more familiar in gardens has colours simimlar to our iris in our eyes - hence its name).

Unlike most iris which have bulbs, yellow flag iris have rhizomes, These are more than just roots, but are plant stems from which the plant grows upwards and from which small roots erach out below the soil.

A full yellow flag iris flower with an impatient second bloom rising from behind it.

CONSERVATIONISTS HANDBOOK : https://www.conservationhandbooks.com/wildflowers/yellow-flag/

NATIONAL RECORDS OF SCOTLAND : https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/archivists-garden/index-by-plant-name/wild-flag-iris

WILDLIFE TRUSTS : https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/wildflowers/yellow-iris

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