A Royal Lineage

Jack Saunders pointed out in his book The Secrets of Wildflowers, that the name “iris” comes from the Greek goddess Iris who sat on top of Mount Olympus and acted as a messenger between humans and the other gods who also sat on top of the mountain. It was said that wherever she went a rainbow followed her. The Greeks said the rainbow in the sky was a sign that the goddess Iris was delivering a message. One of the duties of the goddess Iris was to guide the souls of the dead to the afterworld and so many Greeks planted the iris flowers next to their graves.

Saunders says this about its regal history:

“The ancients considered the iris a symbol of power and majesty. Egyptian kings used the design of the blossom on their sceptres and placed it on the brow of the Sphinx, believing its major petals to be symbols of faith, wisdom, and valour.  Modern use of the iris as a royal symbol may trace back to Clovis, a sixth-century king of the Franks. According to one legend, a large force of Goths trapped his army, with his back against the Rhine River near Cologne. As he searched for a way to escape, Clovis noticed in the distance a large colony of golden irises extending far out into the river. He realized this was a sign that the water was shallow enough there for his troops to cross.”

As a result Clovis men escaped. I had a short visit to Cologne

King Louis VII of France selected the iris as his house emblem when he was a young crusader and in time it became the famous fleur-de-lis or fleur-de-luce, all o of which are corruptions of ‘flower of Louis.’ Some people say the blue flag iris got is name because kings like the Louis’ of France frequently employed the design on the flags and banners of the monarchies of Europe. Others suggest that the leaves of the iris look like reeds, and the Middle English word for reeds is flagge. The wild blue flag is the official flower of Quebec

All of this is interesting (to me at least) but I admit I love them for their outstanding beauty alone. What more is needed? Irises bear a resemblance to orchids and I have had people ask me if the blue flag is an orchid. It is not, but perhaps it should be adopted into the family.

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