1869 English Botany "Iris Pseudacorus"
English Botany Volume 9, 1869
"SPECIES II.— IRIS PSEUD-ACORUS. Linn. Plate JICCCCXCV, Bckli. Ic. Fl. Germ, et Helv. Vol. IX. Tab. CCCXLIV. Xiphion Pseud-acoi-us, Pari. Fl. Ital. Vol. III. p. 295. Rhizome thick, horizontal, creeping. Stem slightly compressed, about as long as the leaves, sparingly branched or simple. Leaves decaying in winter, broadly linear-ensiform, nearly parallel, straight, glaucous green, dim. Spathes terminal and lateral at the extremity of the main stem, usually terminal only on the branches, herbaceous, with extremely narrow scarious borders. Flowers two or three together. Pedicels of the flower opening first in each spathe as long as or longer than the ovary; those of the other flowers shorter; all rather shorter than the mature capsule. Free portion of the perianth tube cylindrical, much shorter than the ovary. Sepals obovate-spathulate ; the claw rather narrow; the lamma much longer and much broader than the claw, oval or suborbicular, reflexed, not bearded. Petals erect, from one-fourth to one-sixth the length of the Sepals, and one-half to one-third that of the stigmas, oblanceolate or oblong-spathulate, with narrow subparallel claws. Capsule 3-celled, oblong-prismatic, bluntly trigonous, with six faint furrows. Seeds roundish-obdeltoid, mucli compressed, with parallel faces, and with a hard light brown slight!}- shining testa.
*Var. A", genuina.*Iris Pseud-acorus, Boreau, Fl. du Centr. de la Fr. ed. iii. p. G35. Sepals deep yellow, with an orange spot at the base of the oval lamina. Petals oblong, rather abruptly attenuated into the claw.
Var. B", acoriformis.
Plate MCCCCXCV. I. acoriformis, Boreau, Fl. dn Ccntr. do la Fr. ed. iii. p. 035. Sepals deep yellow, with an orange spot at the base of the sub-orbicular lamina. Petals smaller in proportion to the sepals and stigmas than in var. a, and with the lamina gradually attenuated into the claw."
Var. C, Bastardl. I. Bastardi, Borcau, Fl. du Centr. de la Fr. ed. iii. p. 03-3. Sepals pale yellow,-without an orange spot at the base of the oblong-oval lamina. Petals the size of those of var. B, but rather abruptly attenuated into the claw, as in var. A.
In ditches, marshes, and by the sides of rivers and ponds. Common, and universally distributed. I am unable to give the distribution of the varieties in Britain. Var. A I have not observed about London; but a plant which I brought to my garden from the marshes between Sandwich and Deal, on flowering proved to be I. Pseud-acorus of Boreau. Var. B is the only form I have seen by the Thames and its tributaries, and I have specimens of it also from Swanbister, Orkney, and Seton, Haddingtonshire. Var. C appears to be rare, and I have never met with it myself; but I have seen a specimen from Lord Mansfield's fish-ponds, near Highgate; it is said to have occurred in Cambridgshire; and was also found in Ayrshire by Mr. James Smith, of Ayr.
England, Scotland, Ireland. Perennial. Summer.
Rootstock as thick as a man's finger or thicker, dark brown, the flesh tinged with red, especially after it has been cut for a short time. Flowering stem 2 to 4 feet high, commonly with branches from the axils of the upper leaves. Spathe with acute valves, which are nearly wholly herbaceous. Flowers 3 to 4 inches across, the sepals usually with purple lines on the claw, which diverge in a small rhomboidal-oblong space at the base of the lamina : in vars. A and B this rhomboidal space is of an orange-yellow, and the rest of the lamina bright yellow; but in var. c this space is of the same pale yellow colour as the rest of the lamina of the sepal. Petals and stigmas pale yellow. Anthers purplish-brown. Capsule about 3 inches long, at length pendulous, the valves ultimately separating at the apex, rolling back and scattering the seeds. Seeds about 1/4 inch across, appearing as if they were flattened by the mutual pressure, so that they stand in double rows in each cell like rouleaux of coin; testa dry as soon as the seed is ripe.
I can find no sufficiently distinctive characters to separate the three species which Boreau includes under the Linnean I. Pseud-acorus.
Yellow Water Iris.
French, Iris faux-acore. German, Wasser Schwertel.
Everyone must have observed the bright yellow flowers of this pretty plant, enlivening the banks of our rivers and reedy ditches in June and July. It is supposed to have furnished the heralds with the device called the " fleur-de-lys," the national bearings of France adopted, according to tradition, by Louis VII., and deriving its name from the river Lys, on the borders of Flanders, on the banks of which it is particularly abundant. It was at one time considered as peculiarly sacred to the Virgin Mary, as shown in the legend of the old knight, who, more devout than learned, became a monk, but could never retain in his memory more than two words of a prayer to the Virgin. These were "Ave Maria," and with these he constantly addressed his prayer to heaven. Night and day his prayer continued, until the good old knight died, and was laid in the chapel-yard of the convent, when, as a proof of the acceptance of his brief but earnest prayer, there sprang up a plant of fleur-de-lys, which displayed in every flower the words " Ave Maria " shining as golden letters. The sight induced the monks, who had despised him during his lifetime on account of his ignorance, to open his ; and there they found the root of the plant resting upon the lips of the good old soldier who lay mouldering there.
Writers who have thought and made research on the subject of the origin of the fleur-de-lys as an emblem in the arms of France, conclude that it was a conventional symbol long before it was thus adopted, that it was employed as an ornament in that country two centuries before the reign of Louis IX., and that it is rather the triple, leaf which, being anciently used in heraldry, suggested the form of the fleur-de-lys. It is still a question whether the form was intended to represent the flower, or a halbert's head, or, as some say, a toad.
The flower was called, according to Philinus, " the wolf," from its supposed resemblance to the lips of that animal ; and some made it the symbol of a messenger, on account of its name of Iris. It was held in the highest esteem in medicine, curing coughs, bruises, " evil spleens," convulsions, dropsies, and serpents' bites, and as Gerarde says, " doth mightilie and vehementlie draw forth choler." It was even employed as a cosmetic, and still finds favour with our rustic maidens for this purpose. But it must be used with caution, as Gerarde thus refers to its powers : " Clene washed and stamped with a few drops of rosewater, and laid plaisterwise upon the face of man or woman, it doth in two dales at most take awaie the blacknesse and blewnesse of any stroke or bruse, so that if the skinne of the same woman, or any other person, be very tender and delicate, it shall be needful that ye laye a piece of silk, sendalle, or a piece of fine laune, between the plaistre and the skinne, for otherwise in such tender bodies it often causeth hete and inflammation."
The Romans called the plant consecratrix, from its being used in purifications, and Pliny mentions certain ceremonies in digging up the plant, which are very similar to those described by him and by Theophrastus in other cases. The juice of the plant has been employed to produce sneezing, and so relieve headache, and a slice of the root held in the mouth is said to relieve toothache. It is singular that its acrid qualities are entirely dissipated by drying, after which it acts only as an astringent. With sulphate of iron it yields a black dye. The angular seeds, when ripe, form a good substitute for coffee, but must be well roasted before using. The dried rhizome of one species of Iris growing in southern countries is known by the name of " orris root," and is a frequent ingredient in toothpowder.
For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at http://www.historiciris.org/