Iris Family

Blue-eyed Grass © DSchiel

Iridaceae (eye-rid-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

    • Flattened sprays of sword-shaped leaves
    • Flower parts in threes

    Description (Jepson)

      • Perennial herbs
      • Geophytes (plants with underground storage organs)
        • Grow from bulbs (short underground stems with fleshy leaves, e.g. onion), corms (short, solid underground stems), or rhizomes (horizontal underground stems)
      • Monocotyledons (monocots) – monocots are a major lineage of flowering, mostly herbaceous plants, generally characterized by
        • Single seed leaf (cotyledon)
        • Linear or oblong leaves with parallel venation
        • Flower parts in threes
        • Pollen grains with a single pore
        • Vascular bundles scattered in stem
        • Fibrous root system
      • Leaves
        • Usually basal, simple (not divided into leaflets), and alternate (one leaf at each junction with stem)
        • Sword-shaped, often with a distinct central fold
        • Sheathing the stem, in a flattened, fan-like arrangement
      • Flowers
        • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in small groups or single flower, emerging from a distinct pair of bracts (modified leaves)
        • Bisexual, radially or bilaterally symmetric, saucer or funnel shaped flowers
          • 3 petals and 3 colorful sepals (outer flower parts)
          • 3 stamen (versus 6 stamen of Lily family members)
        • Ovary usually inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
      • Fruit a capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity)


        • 2,050 species worldwide, especially in Africa
          • Grow in a great variety of habitats, especially in climates with long dry or cold periods
          • Includes irises, gladiolas, freesias, and crocuses
        • Geophytes, e.g. plants growing from bulbs, corms, and rhizomes, are adapted to survive fire, our Mediterranean climate’s long, dry summers, and extended droughts
          • Above-ground growth dies back after flowering, while underground the plant survives with stored water and nutrients
        • Scientific and common name from the included genus Iris, named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, referring to the flower colors
        • Represented by 7 species at Edgewood, only 2 of which are native

        See General References

        Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family