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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stinking iris,Iris foetidissima

Stinking iris Iris foetidissima has two memorable features. The first is the vibrant orange seeds that are revealed when the seed pod bursts open. These make excellent decorations and I have a vase of them on my desk as I write.
Each seed is surrounded by a soft orange aril, which slowly dries and wrinkles once it's exposed to air.
The other memorable feature isn't the flower, which is unspectacular by the standards of many irises, but the smell. If you crush the foliage between finger and thumb you release an aroma that's reminiscent of roast beef or, perhaps more accurately, the exaggerated beefy smell of a packet of roast beef-flavoured crisps. The species is sometimes known as roast beef plant.

Iris foetidissima is easy to grow from seed and thrives on a dry, sunny bank in my garden, producing seed pods for winter decoration every year.


  1. Hi, beautiful pictures of this plant.. I had never seen. interesting.. i liked..

  2. I had this at my old house and it spread prodigiously! I daren't plant it here.

  3. Thanks Dejemonos sorprender, it always comes as a surprise when those pods split open and reveal such brilliant seeds...

  4. Hi Keith, So far the plants have grown quite fast but haven't spread because I've cut the seed pods for decoration every autumn - thanks for the warning!

  5. I hugely enjoy all your blogs and am thrilled by the quality of your photos. How do you do it? Do you take them in the dark with flash? Are they done in the field under cover of darkness, or do you stick them in a vase at home and wait 'till midnight?
    Thanks for the wonderful stuff...

  6. Hello Chris, Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments. I usually go for a simple approach with the photographs, often putting them in a vase or clamping them in front of a piece of black velvet on a table in the window, then using a reflector to balance up the window light on the shadow side and taking a spot meter reading off the flower - which sets it off nicely against a black background. A bit like studio portraiture, I suppose. I visited the garden at Levens Hall a few years ago and must return - a wonderful garden. Kind regards, Phil