Iris fulva Ker Gawl.

Copper Iris


CC = 9
CW = -5
MOC = 8

© DETenaglia

Family - Iridaceae

Habit - Rhizomatous perennial forb. Rhizomes lacking conspicuously thickened areas.

Stems - Arching to erect, to 90 cm, usually somewhat longer than the leaves.

Iris_fulva_stem.jpg Stem and node.

© DETenaglia

Leaves - Basal and 2-ranked on the aerial stems, 40-90 cm long, 15-25 mm wide, arching or nodding, flat.

Inflorescences - Clusters of flowers terminal and axillary, each with 1-4 flowers, the spathelike bracts unequal, 3-8 cm long, herbaceous, green.

Iris_fulva_bract.jpg Bract subtending the flower.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 4.5-5.5 cm long, widely spreading or arching downward, obovate, glabrous, with 1-3 prominent, longitudinal veins, orange, copper-colored, or reddish brown, often with a lighter, yellow area near the base. Petals about as long as but narrower than the sepals, erect, orange, copper-colored, or reddish brown.

Iris_fulva_flower.jpg Perianth.

© DETenaglia

Iris_fulva_ovary.jpg Ovary at base of flower.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Capsules 4.5-8.0 cm long, oblongelliptic in outline, 6-angled, with a single rib at each angle.

Iris_fulva_fruit.jpg Fruit and seeds.

© KBildner

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Swamps, bottomland forests, ditches, pond margins, sloughs, frequently in shallow water.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - None close.

Other info. - This attractive species can be found in a few counties in the bootheel of Missouri. It is a relatively uncommon plant, with a global distribution mostly confined to 6 states ranging from Missouri and Illinois southward. It is an easily identifiable species because of its general habit and copper-colored flowers. When lacking open flowers, it can be distinguished from I. virginica, with which it sometimes grows, by its shorter spathelike bracts.

I. fulva can grow in shallow water or in rich soil and deserves to be cultivated much more. It is becoming rare in the wild due to dredging, drainage of swamps, and application of herbicide in ditches.

Photographs taken in Columbia, MO., 5-19-04 (DETenaglia); also at Poplar Bluff Conservation Area, Butler County, MO, 5-15-2016 (SRTurner). Fruit photo 9-26-2020 (KBildner).