Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Iris Leaves

Every spring I thrill to the emergence of the iris, especially the old fashioned bearded kind. The flat, sword shaped leaves are a wonderful gray green and always seem to have a halo of white about their edges. At this time of the garden season I usually tend to ignore the leaves as I bury my head in the scent of the flowers and only later, when I cut the dead flowers do I remember the beauty of the leaves. One of the things I love about the iris is how all their disparate parts come together. The tough scaly rhizome that you plant; the flat, triangular, tall leaves; the round stiff stock that supports the blousey flowers. It looks like it was designed by a committee. And I just read that it is considered a perennial herb. I never knew.
Iris leaves


  1. An herb? Which part? The leaves, I assume?

  2. Hi Jennifer, this is what Wikipedia has to say. "Rhizomes of the German Iris (I. germanica) and Sweet Iris (I. pallida) are traded as orris root and are used in perfume and medicine, though more common in ancient times than today. Today Iris essential oil (absolute) from flowers are sometimes used in aromatherapy as sedative medicines. The dried rhizomes are also given whole to babies to help in teething. Gin brands such as Bombay Sapphire and Magellan Gin use orris root and sometimes iris flowers for flavor and color.
    For orris root production, iris rhizomes are harvested, dried, and aged for up to 5 years. In this time, the fats and oils inside the roots undergo degradation and oxidation, which produces many fragrant compounds that are valuable in perfumery. The scent is said to be similar to violets. The aged rhizomes are steam-distilled which produces a thick oily compound, known in the perfume industry as "iris butter"."

    I expected the flowers to be used for perfume and I may have to take up drinking gin.


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