Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Virginia Iris - Iris virginica   L.
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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DistributionThis species occurs throughout the Coastal Plain, and extends barely into the adjacent eastern Piedmont -- west to Warren and Wake counties. Some references still consider it to have a range in NC that includes the Mountains and western Piedmont. However, Weakley (2018) and a few other authors have moved this western population into I. shrevei.

Iris virginica (strict sense) occurs only from southeastern VA south to central FL, and west to MS. It also ranges in the Mississippi drainage northward up that river to western TN.
AbundanceIn the Coastal Plain, it is fairly common to locally common; in the far eastern (northeastern) Piedmont it is rare.
HabitatThis is a species of rich or muddy wet places, as opposed to clearly acidic wetlands. It favors marshes, both inland one and tidal freshwater ones, but it also is found around lake and pond margins, beaver ponds, in ditches and canal margins, stream edges, swampy areas, and at times in wet flatwoods. For the most part, it is I. tridentata that is found in the state's wet savannas and Carolina bays.
See also Habitat Account for Coastal Plain Shallow Wetlands
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits from July to September.
IdentificationThis is the most common tall iris in the state and is usually the species one thinks of when "iris" is mentioned. For an iris it has broad leaves, often glaucous green, with the sword-like leaves being up to 2-3 feet long and about 1.5 inches wide; one leaf edge is pointed toward the flowering stem, as in all irises. The flowering stem is 2-2.5 feet tall, rarely to 3 feet tall. Each stem is generally unbranched but has a few flowers, generally only one blooming at a time. The flowers, up to 3-4 inches high and wide, are violet-blue in color, with some white and yellow on the sepals. The shorter petals are quite erect and about 1-1.5 inches tall. In the similar I. tridentata, the 3 petals are very short and barely extend to the claw of the sepals. The range does not quite overlap with the more western I. shrevei, which is very similar but has a taller flowering stem (often to 3 feet high), usually one or two branches on the stem, and has larger capsules (about 4 inches long compared with 2-3 inches in I. virginica). It is normally not hard to spot a stand of Virginia Iris when you are driving along roads in the lower Coastal Plain, such as along the margins of canals and in ditches.
Taxonomic CommentsThough always a good species, most references still include I. shrevei within it, and not even split out as a variety or subspecies.

Other Common Name(s)Southern Blue Flag, Blue Flag. "Blue Flag" is the general name often used for the tall species in the genus.
State RankS4
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