Iris Basics

Legend of the Iris as a Symbol of the Messenger

The origin of the name Iris stems from Greek mythology where it's told that the goddess Iris, messenger of the gods, carried messages between the Sky and Earth, scattering fields of Iris flowers in rainbow colors. Iris was the name given to the goddess, this flower, and the center of your eye. The Iris is the symbol of Idea and Message and the Eye of God. The three leaves of the iris represent faith, wisdom, and valor.

It's a Family Thing

The botanical family Iridacea is a family of herbaceous monocot perennials that includes over 2000 species around the world. Along with the genus Iris, this family includes genera such as Crocosmia, Crocus, Gladiolus and Moraea, just a few of the 66 or so members. Named for Iris the Greek Goddess of the Rainbow, the genus Iris is comprised of over 260 species of flowering plants.


Irises are tripartite, having three parts. This is most noticeable when viewing a cross section of the ovary or seed capsule. The three standards (upright petals) and three falls (hanging petals), are a common, typical characteristic common in both bearded and beardless.

Four Groups

Irises are divided into four groups: Species, Bearded, Beardless and Bulbous. Species irises are those irises that have not been genetically enhanced (or compromised) by human intervention. The majority of species irises have rhizomes although there are many bulbous species as well. Hybrid irises, registered with and monitored by the American Iris Society, are further grouped into Bearded and Beardless groups. All irises in these groups have rhizomes. It probably goes without saying that irises in the Bearded group have a beard on their falls; Beardless do not. The Bulbous types of irises are true bulbs. They are not registered with the American Iris Society.

Bearded Iris: Significant differences within the bearded irises group prompted the formation of several subgroups...

Median: a term that is inclusive of the SDB, IB, BB, and MTB classes of bearded irises.

The Beardless Iris group:

Terms of interest

You may run across these acronyms when perusing information about irises: