Nature on our doorsteps: The flag of summer

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

In early June, the edges of the ponds and lakes in our parks are transformed by the lovely waterside plant, the Yellow Iris. 

This tall elegant plant has long sword-like leaves and sunny yellow flowers with long petals.

The lake edges in Ballymount Park are fringed with clumps of Yellow Iris compressor

The lake edges in Ballymount Park are fringed with clumps of Yellow Iris

Yellow Iris is also sometimes called Flag Iris or Yellow Flag, where the name flag is derived from the old English word ‘flagge’, which referred to the rushes or reeds that grow beside water.

In mythology, Iris was the Roman goddess of the rainbow, representing beauty and purity. 

In ancient Egypt where it grew along the Nile, the Iris was the plant which was used to crown the brow of the Sphinx. 

The Iris is not just a beautiful plant, however. It has other uses too. In Ireland, its strong leaves were once used to thatch roofs and as animal bedding. It was also believed to have medicinal properties.

Tall Irises provide cover for young cygnets when needed compressor

Tall Irises provide cover for young cygnets

Irises also have a very useful ability to filter out harmful contaminants from the rivers and lakes where they grow, helping to cleanse the water as it flows through its thick clumps of leaves and roots.  

At this time of the year, the lovely combination of Iris’s bright green leaves and yellow flowers makes a lovely backdrop to the proud swan and duck parents, showing off their delightful cygnets and ducklings.

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