A large family, widely distributed and found throughout our continent. Perennial herbs, with bracts; the leaves long, narrow, toothless, and sheathing; the flowers showy, perfect and regular, twisted in the bud, not falling off in withering, of three and six parts; the three stamens on the base of the sepals, their anthers turning outward; the single style with three branches; the ovary inferior, becoming a three-celled, usually three-angled, many-seeded capsule. This family is noticeably distinguished from the Lily family by the inferior ovary, and from the Amaryllis family by the three stamens.

There are many kinds of Iris. To the casual observer the flowers appear to have nine petals of different sizes, but in reality there are three sepals, three petals, and three petal-like branches of the style. The three outer divisions, or sepals, are large and spread or turn down; the three inner divisions, or petals, are usually narrower and are erect; the style branches arch over and under each is a stamen. The sepals and petals have claws, which are united below and form a tube; the capsule is large and contains many, flat, black seeds, in one or two rows in each cell; the large rootstock is usually fleshy. Iris is from the Greek for "rainbow, " in allusion to the variegated tints, and Flower-de-luce from the French "fleur-de-lis," or "lily-flower." Many odd and beautiful kinds are cultivated from the Old World. Orris-root is made from the roots of a Florentine species.