Who armed with golden rod
And winged with the celestial azure, bearest
The message of some God.
Thou art the Muse, who far from crowded cities
Hauntest the sylvan streams
Playing on the pipes of reed the artless ditties
That come to us as dreams
O flower-de-luce, bloom on, and let the river
Linger to kiss thy feet!
O flower of song, bloom on, and make for ever
The world more fair and sweet.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-1882
Iris was the messenger of the ancient Greek gods and she appeared to the mortals on earth in the form of a rainbow. There are as many different shades of iris as there are colors of the rainbow.
The oldest story about the iris is from 1479 B.C., when an Egytian king, Thutmose III, returned home after conquering Syria. To commemorate his conquests he had pictures of irises and other flowers from his conquered lands drawn on the walls of a temple.
From the New Kingdom of Egypt to the present, the iris has always been a symbol of authority and religious belief.
Among iris admirers were the kings of France who used the iris as their royal emblem and called it the Fleur-de-Lis.
Amulets carved from the iris rootstock were said to protect people and animals from evil spirits and magic.
Today the single greatest use of iris (other than for its beauty in the garden) is in the manufacturing of cosmetics. In Mexico, iris is grown extensively for this purpose and many tons of the root are shipped to France annually.