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Bristle-pointed iris facts for kids

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Bristle-pointed iris
Kosaciec szczecinkowaty Iris setosa.jpg
Scientific classification
  • Iris arctica Eastw.
  • Iris brachycuspis Fisch. ex Sims
  • Iris brevicuspis Fisch. ex Schult.
  • Iris interior (E.S.Anderson) Czerep.
  • Iris setosa var. interior E.S.Anderson
  • Iris setosa subsp. interior (E.S.Anderson) Hultén
  • Iris setosa var. platyrhyncha Hultén
  • Iris setosa subsp. setosa
  • Iris setosa var. setosa
  • Iris yedoensis Franch. & Sav.
  • Limniris setosa (Pall. ex Link) Rodion.
  • Xiphion brachycuspis (Fisch. ex Sims) Alef.
  • Xyridion setosum (Pall. ex Link) Klatt

Iris setosa, the bristle-pointed iris, is a species of flowering plant in the genus Iris of the family Iridaceae, it belongs the subgenus Limniris and the series Tripetalae. It is a rhizomatous perennial from a wide range across the Arctic sea, including Alaska, Maine, Canada (including British Columbia, Newfoundland, Quebec and Yukon), Russia (including Siberia), northeastern Asia, China, Korea and southwards to Japan. The plant has tall branching stems, mid green leaves and violet, purple-blue, violet-blue, blue, to lavender flowers. There are also plants with pink and white flowers.


Iris setosa is similar in form to a miniature Japanese iris, or a dwarf version of Iris sibirica but a shorter lived version.

The shallowly rooted, large, branching rhizomes spread over time to create large clumps. The rhizomes are grey-brown, thick, and are covered with old (maroon-brown) fibrous leaf remains (of last seasons leaves).

It has branched stems, which are very variable in height, ranging from 10 cm (5 inches) up to 1 m (3 ft) tall. The larger plants can grow beyond the height of the leaves. The roundish stems are between 1.5–9 cm in diameter with 1 to 3 branches.

Iris setosa has mid-green leaves, which are grass-like, and lanceolate (sword-shaped). They have a purplish tinged base and the leaves can measure 30–60 cm (12–24 in) long by 0.8–2.5 cm wide.

The plant has 3–4 flowers per stem (between 6 and 13 for the whole plant, in groups of 3,) and it blooms between June and July.

The large flowers are between 5–8 cm (3–6 in) across, usually 7–8 cm, and come in a range of shades of blue, which can depend on the location. and range from violet, purple-blue, violet-blue, blue, to lavender. Very occasionally, there are pink or white forms.

Like other irises, it has 3 pairs of petals, 3 large sepals (outer petals), known as the 'falls' and 3 inner, smaller petals (or tepals), known as the 'standards'. The sepals can be deeply veined dark purple with a yellow-white signal (centre). The standards are so small, that they are reduced to bristles. Which gives the flower, a flat, three petal appearance.

The perianth tube (floral tube) is about 1 cm long, normally dark blue-violet to red-purple with darker veins.

The plant is self-fertile, being hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and it is pollinated by insects. The stamens are about 2 cm long, the anthers are purple and the ovary about 1 cm long.

After the flowers have finished blooming, the seeds ripen between August and September. They are cased within a green seed capsule, which is loculicidal, or cylindrical, (measuring 2.5 cm by 1.25 cm), which turns pale brown when it ripens. It has 6 ribs along its sides.

The pale brown seeds (about 2–3 mm in size) have a distinct raised raphe (tissue ridge) the length of one edge.


In 2012, a genetic study was carried out on Iris laevigata and several of its closely related iris species, including Iris ensata, Iris setosa, Iris halophila, Iris scariosa, Iris potaninii, Iris tenuifolia, Iris bloudowii, and Iris sanguinea. Flavonoids also have been analysed from the flowers and leaves of the Iris japonica (ARISAWA et al., 1973), Iris pseudacorus (WILLIAMS et al., 1986), Iris gracilipes (HAYASHI et al., 1984) and Iris setosa (HAYASHI,1984). As most irises are diploid, having two sets of chromosomes. This can be used to identify hybrids and classification of groupings. It has a chromosome count: 2n=38, found by Simonet in 1934. Specimens from Primorskii Krai in Russia, were found to have a chromosome count of 2n=28. Using chromosome research, a progenitor of Iris setosa has been found to be the parent of Iris versicolor with a progenitor of Iris virginica.


It is written as 山鸢尾 in Chinese script and 'shan yuan wei' in China. In Japan it is known as 檜扇菖蒲/ヒオウギアヤメ and called 'hiougi-ayame'.

It has several common names, including 'Beachhead Iris' (because it is tolerant of salt air or maritime conditions, encountered in rocky ground above shorelines, especially known as this in Canada), 'Wild flag iris' 'Alaska iris' 'Arctic Iris' (or Dwarf Arctic Iris, because it grows into the Arctic Circle, and it formerly possessed the taxonomic name 'Iris arctica'), 'Arctic blue flag'. and 'Bristle-pointed iris' (in the UK).

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