Iris foetidissima L. - Stinking Iris

Phylum: Anthophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Asparagales - Family: Iridaceae

The flower of Stinking Iris


The plant grows to around 60 cm in height, and the dull mauve and fawn flowers are 7 to 8 cm wide.

The fruit capsules are oblong and three-sided. When ripe they split open to reveal orange seeds.

English common names

Stinking Iris, Scarlet-berry Iris, Gladdon, Gladwin Iris, Roast-beef Plant, and Stinking Gladwin - some of this plant's common names come from the smell of the sword-shaped leaves when they are crushed or bruised - a smell that is said to resemble rotten raw beef.

Distribution and habitats

This impressive monocot is locally common in southern England, Wales and in the south-eastern part of Ireland, where it blooms from May until July. It is one of just two Iris species native to Britain; the other is Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus.

Stinking Iris can be found in scrub and woodland areas, but in Wales the best place to see this is to head for the sand dunes in south west Wales, where it is fairly easy to find. Stinking Iris favours calcareous substrates, and sand dunes containing a high proportion of crushed shells provide an ideal habitat.

The flowers themselves are beautufully veined but in other respects far from spectacular; however, Stinking Iris steps up a gear during autumn, when its seed capsules open to reveal striking red-orange berries that cling to the dead flower stems all through thw winter.

Seedpods of Stinking Iris

Above: The large fruit capsules of Stinking Iris

Ripe seedpods of Stinking Iris

Above: Ripe seeds of Stinking Iris

The other pictures on this page were taken in Kenfig National Nature Reserve in South Wales.

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