Southeast Kentucky has some of the most diversified forests in the country. We have been blessed with an extensive variety of habits just on our farm. So we’re going to try each week featuring one of our favorite plants.
This week we have the Wild Iris. It grows a short walk, or longer 4-wheeler ride, from our house down on one of our favorite parts of our land. At the base of the hill, through the woods, below the house is a small flat area where two creeks meet. It is mostly wooded, but as it is not yet deep into the hollow it gets more sun than most areas of the forest.
The irises bloom for just a short time each spring. The are very small, standing just a few inches above the ground and only about two inches across. Even in the same patch they bloom in various shades of purple and white.
A bit of research reveals conflicting information regarding edibility and medicinal usage. Perhaps the root can be used to treat ulcers and suppress thirst, perhaps it will kill you. Maybe both, maybe neither. Notably the roots (rhizomes actually) are said to have a sweet and then acrid or pungent flavor, so clearly someone didn’t die at least once. Regardless, they are not considered to have any significant use today other than for beauty.
I believe this specific variety is the Dwarf Crested Iris, it is common to much of the eastern United States and tolerant and hardy enough to be grown in gardens. We like ours right where they are, but if you’d like some too the bulbs can be easily ordered online.