Purple Bearded Irises — Close Up and (Very) Personal

A purple bearded iris blossom. Photo by BF Newhall

Three caterpillar-like beards rest on three veined hafts. Photos by BF Newhall.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I think of irises as a common, garden-variety flower. You see them growing everywhere. Our own back yard has had dozens of them growing wildish ever since we moved in thirty-plus years ago.  But it wasn’t until this spring that I took the time to notice how intricate — and elegant — these flowers truly are.

Purple bearded iris viewed from above, claws visible. Photo by BF Newhall

Viewed from above, the iris blossom's claws are visible.

There’s a heck of a lot going on inside an iris blossom. Stamen. Pistel. Hafts. Falls and standards. Claws. And, of course, those fuzzy, erotic caterpillar-like beards, which give pollinating insects something to grab on to as they enter the blossom looking for nectar.

An entire universe of stuff is quietly going about its business at our front gate while commute traffic zooms by.

It so happens there’s a mildly raunchy mommy blogger out there who calls herself, appropriately enough, The Bearded Iris. She’s getting nervous about losing her bloggerly anonymity because her kids’ friends can now read. I sympathize.

The columns I used to write for the Oakland Tribune were not a problem — until the stories I wanted to tell started having to do with things like dancing (and maybe hand-holding, possibly even kissing ) at certain pre-adolescent parties I was privy to.

As a result of social pressures, real and imagined, The Bearded Iris thinks she might have to tone down her writing — or go underground and write her blog anonymously until her kids are grown up enough to appreciate her gutsy sense of humor.

By then, I’ll have split the rhizomes of my fecund bearded irises a few more times and once again looked around for a neighbor to take the surplus off my hands.

Purple bearded iris veined haft and beard. Photo by BF Newhall

I have to confess, I had no idea how complicated and elegant our very ordinary iris blossoms were -- until I took the time to photograph them this spring.




  1. Leslie @ The Bearded Iris says:

    Beautiful post, Barbara! And those photos are truly amazing. Thank you for thinking of me and my recent struggle with losing my anonymity. Wish we were neighbors so I could take some of those irises off your hands!

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