Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Dwarf Crested Iris - Iris cristata   Aiton
Members of Iridaceae:
Members of Iris with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Liliales » Family Iridaceae
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DistributionThroughout the Mountains and Piedmont; sparingly found in the southern Coastal Plain, primarily along the Cape Fear River. Absent from the Sandhills proper.

This is an east-central species with a rather narrow north to south range. It occurs north to southern PA and MO, and south to central portions of GA, AL, and MS.
AbundanceCommon throughout the Mountains and Piedmont; very rare to rare in the southwestern portions of the Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis is a species of mesic to more often rich forests, particularly on slopes. It is a characteristic species of Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forests, but it is found along stream banks, moist bluffs, and in cove forests.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits from June into July.
IdentificationThis is the most often seen native iris in the state by most people, and biologists need no introduction to it. It has a handful of lanceolate basal leaves, gently curved or falcate, growing to about 5-6 inches long, pale green to green in color and oriented mostly with a leaf edge facing the stem. The flowering stem is very short for an iris, being only about 5 inches tall, but it is topped by one or two very large flowers, which are roughly 3 inches wide. The flower structure of an iris defies easy description here (without a photo!), but they are medium to light violet or lavender in color, with white on the sepals, which also contain the characteristic yellow hair-like crest. The similar I. verna does have a yellow band on each of the three sepals, but this band is much larger and is smooth and not hairy like a small brush. Iris cristata grows in sizable and very dense stands, where it is difficult to count individuals in the stand. Though hardly scarce, it is always a crowd-pleaser, especially when a large colony is found.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Crested Dwarf Iris, Crested Iris
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieHeadwaters of Jacobs Creek, mafic slope, April 2008. StanlyPhoto_natural
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