The Iris family have a worldwide distribution, and many members are prized garden ornamentals (e.g., Crocus, Tigridia, Freesia, Iris, Sisyrinchium, Gladiolus, Crocosmia, Bugle Lily, and Montbretia). In addition, Crocus sativus stamens are the source of the spice saffron. There are about 60 genera and 1,500 species, distributed in temperate and tropical regions. The Iridaceae are easily recognized vegetatively because the leaves of the Iridaceae are oriented edgewise to the stem. They are simple, alternate, folded and overlapping one another at the base and aligned in two rows. The flowers of most Iridaceae are structurally simple and are highly modified with the three distinct petal-like styles bending over to pair with the bent back sepals. The flowers are usually radially symmetrical, the calyx has 3 petal-like sepals, the corolla has 3 petals and there are 3 stamens. All these parts are attached at the top of the ovary. The fruit is a capsule. Members of this family are herbs growing from rhizomes, bulbs, or corms, with narrow basal leaves and showy flower clusters at the tips of long stalks.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of the Iris Family
PETALS AND SEPALS UNEQUAL
Iris missouriensis Rocky Mountain Iris Perennial, 20-50 cm tall, often bluish-coated. Meadows and streambanks.
Flowers blue, striped, 6-7 cm wide, with 3 bent-back sepals and 3 petals.
Leaves mainly basal, sword-shaped, 20-40 cm long and 5-10 mm broad.
PETALS AND SEPALS EQUAL
Sisyrinchium montanum Mountain Blue-eyed-grass Tufted perennial, stems 15-35 cm tall, flattened and winged. Meadows, marshes.
Flowers blue, 15-25 mm wide, with 6 spreading tepals, about 2-5 in a cluster.
Leaves basal, grass-like, 2-3 mm broad. The 2 upper bracts very unequal.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Iris family: