Stem. - Stout, angled on one side, leafy, one to three feet high. Leaves. - Flat and sword-shaped, with their inner surfaces coherent for about half of their length. Flowers. - Large and showy, violet-blue, variegated with green, yellow, or white; purple-veined. Perianth. - Six-cleft, the three outer divisions recurved, the three inner smaller and erect. Stamens. - Three, covered by the three overarching, petal-like divisions of the style. Pistil. - One, with its style cleft into three petal-like divisions, each of which bears its stigma on its inner surface.
Born in the purple, born to joy and pleasance,
Thou dost not toil nor spin, But makest glad and radiant with thy presence
The meadow and the lin.*
In both form and color this is one of the most regal of our wild flowers, and it is easy to understand why the fleur-de-lis was chosen as the emblem of a royal house, although the especial flower which Louis VII. of France selected as his badge was probably white.
It will surprise most of us to learn that the common name which we have borrowed from the French does not signify "flower-of-the-lily," as it would if literally translated, but "flower of Louis," lis being a corruption of the name of the king who first adopted it as his badge.
For the botanist the blue-flag possesses special interest. It is a conspicuous example of a flower which has guarded itself against self-fertilization, and which is beautifully calculated to secure the opposite result. The position of the stamens is such that their pollen could not easily reach the stigmas of the same flower, for these are borne on the inner surface of the petal-like, overarching styles. There is no prospect here of any seed being set unless the pollen of another flower is secured. Now what are the chances in favor of this ? They are many : In the first place the blossom is unusually large and showy, from its size and shape alone almost certain to arrest the attention of the passing bee; next, the color is not only conspicuous, but it is also one which has been found to be especially attractive to bees; blue and purple flowers being particularly sought by these insects. When the bee reaches the flower he alights on the only convenient landing-place, one of the recurved sepals; following the deep purple veins which experience has taught him lead to the hidden nectar, he thrusts his head below the anther, brushing off its pollen, which he carries to another flower.
Plate LXXXIX. Fleur-De-Lis. - I. versicolor
The rootstocks of the Florentine species of iris yield the familiar "orris-root."
The family name is from the Greek for rainbow, on account of the rich and varied hues of its different members.
The plant abounds in wet meadows, the blossoms appearing in June.