BLUE FLAG Iris versicolor

One of the greatest promises for the believer is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” No matter how severely tempted we are, if we want to resist it, God will always provide a way for us to escape.

God waves a flag to attract our attention away from evil. a way of escape. Though the wildflower for today does not provide an escape from anything, the word “flag” is appropriate.

BLUE FLAG Iris versicolor

The term flag in blue flag came to be associated with this wild iris because of its need for super-moist soil. The lore has it that an army unit was once backed up to a wide stream by enemy cavalry. The captain of the unit spied a bunch of these irises extending part of the way across the stream. He knew that indicated a shallow bar on which he could lead his men to safety. Thus, wild irises were called flags because they signaled a way to safety (Sanders).

Blue flag is also called blue iris, but there is more mystery to unfold because the bloom is violet. Was the person who named this species color blind? On the other hand, he or she may have been guided by the poet who wrote, “roses are red, violets are blue.”

Blue flag survives well even in shallow water, but as long as the soil is moderately damp it can be found in dense woods and occasionally in meadows. The plant is a perennial and is generally propagated by dividing the rhizome. However, it also reproduces by seed.

This 15- to 30-inch tall plant has a very attractive but odd bloom. There appear to be nine petals in a series of three sets. The lower three are the largest and in the iris family are called “falls.” Technically, these falls are sepals, a structure that supports the bloom in most flowers and generally is a subdued color. The next three petals are actually petals. These are the least colorful and the least delicate, that is, they are thick with blunt outer ends.

The top petals are stigma, the pollen-receptive part of the pistil. The stamens that produce the pollen are located under the true petals, atop the sepals. Botanists explain this unique configuration as an advantage whereby the blue flag forces cross pollination, thus ensuring hardiness of the seeds.

Most domesticated irises produce two or three blooms per plant. However, this wild iris repeatedly blooms one at a time May through July. The flower rarely lasts more than two days.

Native Americans shared many of their medicinal uses for the blue flag with the early settlers. Some herbalists still champion their uses, but the Food and Drug Administration has identified dangerous toxins that can be fatal if ingested. The most widespread beneficial use of blue flag is the drying and slicing of the rhizome for potpourri or making a powder for sachets.

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Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Email him at odmsketchingpad


I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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