Laurence Gossart, Doctor of Arts at Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne tells us more about this flower that appeared in the Cretaceous period – that’s 80 million years ago.
The iris has been given quite a lot of significance over the years. First of all, it was an Egyptian symbol particularly associated with Horus, the god of sunrise and sunset.
But Iris was also a Greek divinity, a kindly messenger of the gods and Hera’s favourite because she often brought good news. In ancient Greek “iris” means rainbow, and the Greek Iris was said to travel on a rainbow when she came down to earth. The flower reflects her name by incarnating the full palette of colours.
There are many varieties of iris: the yellow flag iris, the iris pallida, the iris siberica, the iris germanica and its subspecies the iris florentina. The florentina, a white iris, seems to have been especially prevalent all around the Mediterranean in ancient times, so ancient Greeks and Romans would have been familiar with it. In the Sixth Century, Clovis King of the Franks used the iris as a symbol that we now know as the fleur-de-lys. The story goes that when Clovis was at war with the Visigoths, a deer crossed the river Vienne, showing his army a safe place to cross where the banks were strengthened by the rhizomes of irises.