Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Flowers: Fleur-de-Lis

Wild blue flags in my garden

The fleur-de-lis is an ancient symbol, used by many civilizations from the Mesopotamians and Egyptians to European royalty. Today it is associated with French culture in France, Quebec, Louisiana and other francophone communities. The fleur-de-lis is considered to be a stylized design of an iris flower. The wild iris, or blue flag shown above, is the provincial flower of Quebec, Canada and the provincial flag features four blue fleur-de-lis designs. This is iris season in our area. From the native wildflower to the ornamental bearded irises, blooms of all colours and sizes are seen in fields and gardens.

Ornamental Bearded Iris

I took these yellow bearded irises from Grandma's garden many years ago. These ornamental varieties are beautiful, but the flowers seem too heavy for the stalks. If they are not staked, they are quickly flattened by wind or rain. I found a few blue ornamental irises near the river trail. They looked out of place with the wildflowers and were in the area of some old fruit trees and raspberry canes, indicating that the location was once someone's orchard and garden.

Naturalized Ornamental Iris

The wild yellow flag iris is native to Europe and is an important species in its proper environment. An aquatic plant, it has the ability to draw heavy metals out of water by its root system. It has been intoduced as an ornamental pond plant around the world, but has become an invasive nuisance in some location, spreading quickly and crowding out other native plants. I have only seen one small group of them growing at the edge of the river in an area that was underwater a few short weeks ago.

Wild Yellow Flag Iris

The Becka and I are great Agatha Christie fans and recently watched the Hercule Poirot movie, Yellow Iris. This short story was also made into a radio play in 1937. The wild yellow iris is one of the main visual and symbolic themes in the plot. And of course, the beautiful Iris Russell is the victim of the potassium cyanide in the champagne.

Flower symbolism flourishes in art, literature and music and the iris is frequently featured, if you look for the fleur-de-lis.


  1. The wild blue flags in your garden are my favorite. It interesting to read the history of iris, Ruth. Thanks!

  2. A wonderful interweaving of flowers, history and literature. Well done, Ruth.

  3. I learn so much from your blog Ruth! Beautiful photos and great post. Have a very lovely weekend.

  4. Beautiful! I think you're a little behind us on the irises (ours now being faded and summer upon us). I think they're gorgeous flowers.

  5. Such wonderful flowers! Happy Flower Friday (I will have to remember this day).

  6. I never knew the fleur-de-lis was actually an iris. What does "lis" mean in French?

  7. "lilly" I'd guess. Sorry to ask then answer my own question!

  8. Anonymous6:36 am GMT-4

    I love irises. You've posted some pretty ones.

  9. Hmmm. Hope I'm not repeating myself on your blog - I think it was Nature Woman's where I wondered if others enjoy the light fragrance of iris. You just don't hear people commenting on it.

  10. Laura- You are right. Fleur-de-lis means flower of the lily, but I guess irises were considered to be lilies at one time.

    Jennifer- Thanks. You took a lovely photo of a group of wild blue irises.

    Cathy- Iris rhizomes are used widely in perfumery and supposedly have a violet-like scent. I just went out to smell one of my few remaining blooms, and did not detect much of anything. It is warm and dry. Perhaps there would be more scent early in the day.


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