Monday, 11 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - Wildflowers 'I'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them may fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'I' - Iris, Indian Balsam

Some flowers get ugly names.

Stinking Iris with its orange-red seeds
Other names include gladdon, gladwyn (an old name for a sword referring to its leaves.) Markings on its petals also lead to the name of adder's meat. The smell of its crushed leaves, responsible for calling it 'stinking' is also responsible for the name of roast beef plant.

It's easy to miss it flowering as the flowers, usually dull yellow tinged with purple, only last a day. However there is no missing the green fruits when they have opened out to the distinctive seeds.

Seeds of the stinking iris (Iris foetidisima)
It once was highly valued as a medicinal herb, especially for poultices for drawing splinters and even the odd arrow head. The poisonous rhizomes were also once used medicinally for cramps and as an effective treatment for ringworm.

The iris which was basis for the fleur-de-lys emblem has a much more likeable appearance.

Yellow flag iris (Cornwall)
The Frankish King Clovis wore the flower as a heraldic device in the 5th century.

Its boiled roots were once used for soothing bruises and, when powdered, to make snuff. 

A plant introduced from the Himalayas over 200 years ago is now, in many parts, regarded as a pest or a nuisance.

Indian Balsam
 Each flower appears to have three petals and the lower one gives the flower its nickname of Policeman's helmet.

Its explosive seed  capsules can hurl seeds more than 10 meters. In one of our local spots the tall plants have swamped blackberry bushes; it can reach a height of 2 metres. It has become naturalised on many of our river banks and on damp ground.

Indian balsam on the Teesdale Way, alongside the River Tees

  • Iris foetidisima (stinking iris seeds) - 6 Nov 2007, by Jymm - Public Domain 
  • Indian balsam - 20 June 2009, ex, by Glyn Baker - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic


Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

'stinkin'? who knew

aw said...

Interesting choices here, Bob. The stinking iris appeared in our garden several years ago and was tolerated for a while until it began to spread. Then it proved very difficult to dig out and still removing seedling irises several years later from berries presumably buried in the removal. Indian or Himalayan Balsam looks beautiful but is invasive as you say. I first encountered it along a canal walk in South Wales. As it was a hot day you could hear the pods "firing" their seeds as the pods split.
As you have used Jack by the Hedge already I am wondering what you have lined up for J!

Sandra Cox said...

This is fascinating. Don't you wonder, back in the day, how they figured out what plant, what part of the plant, healed what particular ache and pain.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the stinking iris, but the yellow one is widespread near water. It is a shame that the pretty pink-flowered balsam is so invasive.
Thanks for commenting on my I for iris, Bob.
@suesconsideredt from Sue’s Trifles
and Sue’s words and pictures

Cynthia said...

Those seeds look like baby tomatoes. I mustn't confuse the two.

MLQ said...

I enjoyed reading this very informative post, Bob! I love the fleur-de-lys and didn't know the Iris was the basis for it. :)

Jo said...

Know the regular Iris of course but neither of the wildflowers. I too would have walked by them, probably did without taking much notice.

betty said...

All are such pretty flowers :)


Wendy said...

I love iris. I love how resilient they are. I dig carelessly and divide, barely replant, and boom - there they are blooming as if a trained botanist was taking care of them.