The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Crested Dwarf Iris

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1985

Issue: May, 1985

Crested Dwarf IrisCrested Dwarf Iris - Illustration by Susan M. ThigpenOne of the most beautiful of all spring wild flowers in the Blue Ridge is the Crested Dwarf Iris. No expensive hybrid tubers in the world can touch their delicate beauty, and they grow wild, choosing their own spots for showy beds. Whether they're along a stream bank, roadsides, hillside or bluff, they are a regal sight.

The tiny wild iris is only three or four inches tall, but perfection in their delicate blue petals. There are six petals three plain, alternating with three orchid-shaped petals bearing the pistil and stamen, stemming in a circle from the center of a fleshy stalk - One bloom per stalk. The leaves are flat, pointed at the tip, and grow fan shaped, like their domestic, larger variety cousins.

Wherever you find Crested Dwarf Iris, it is best to just enjoy them where they are, for they are not easily transplanted. It would be a shame to kill such a beautiful plant out of greed and want of corralling it into a domesticated flower garden.

There is one particular place where I go every year to experience their beauty. There they grow thick and wild and I am humbled by their beauty and feel like a peasant at the palace of royalty.

Thank goodness there are still natural untouched areas where we can see such sights! Their place in the world is important, if only to remind us, no matter what we can create "man-made," we will never be able to achieve the likes of one perfect intricate bloom of a flower growing in the wild. Just imagine what our pioneer ancestors must have seen as they crossed these hills and valleys for the very first time.

Here in the Blue Ridge, we can see with our own eyes, flowers growing on common road banks that most people will only see in a book, and never hope to see in real life. Anyone who has ever looked at those wild flower books and then seen the real plant can tell you, "To see it for yourself is a hundred times more beautiful than any photograph will ever picture."

There are centuries old writings and drawings of irises. The iris (or orris) root was once dried and ground to a powder to use as a fixative (preservative) for the fragrances of other flowers such as roses. These mixtures were used to perfume clothing, etc.

Crested Dwarf Irises are as old as the hills and as beautiful as a new born day.