Iris foetidissima – Stinking Iris

Iris foetidissima is one of only two native British iris, the other being Iris pseudoacorus.  The flowers, which appear in summer, are rather dull or, to be kinder, one could say subtle.  They are a browny greyey yellowey, washed too often on a high temperature, sort of colour and can be easily overlooked.  The reason they are  grown generally is for their bright orange seeds which erupt from their papery sheaths, glowing out of even the darkest corner.  This welcome light in the dark makes it an invaluable addition to the winter garden.  It is not fussy where it grows and seedlings pop up in sun, part shade and full shade; damp or dry.  It also has handsome, evergreen, strap like foliage and this is where it gets its charming pseudonym Stinking Iris.   It is the bruised leaves that are foul-smelling, variously described as roast beef (a good stink I would suggest) or burnt rubber (perhaps not so great).  I must admit I haven’t notice either smells in the garden, not totally surprising due to my limited skills in that department.  Next week I will do a survey and will let you know how it turns out.  Volunteers anybody?


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