Iris anguifuga

James Waddick
Mon, 02 May 2011 21:53:13 PDT
Dear Dennis and all,
	I have to add a bit about this iris because it is a favorite 
of mine. I am also responsible for its introduction into horticulture 
outside of China. I brought and distributed a number of plants from 
China in 1989 and a few years ago registered an introduced a specific 
clone as 'Snake Bane'.

	This iris has a very unusual history in Chinese medicine and 

	The Chinese (used to?) believe that this Iris was in some way 
related to snakes and was able to repel snakes from around gardens 
because of its odd 'life style'.  It blooms quite early in late April 
to early May then rapidly goes dormant as it looses its foliage and 
'vigor' it is belive that it looses its ability to repel snakes and 
they can return to the garden during the peak of summer. In late 
fall, the new foliage begins to emerge and this renewed growth is 
able to force the snakes into winter hibernation. Even in quite cold 
climates, the iris retains foliage and keeps the snakes away all 
winter.  So the pattern of growth indirectly reflects the pattern of 
snake activity and is considered causal in the Chinese mind - at 
least at one time.

	It is further believed that if you are unfortunate enough to 
get bitten by a snake when the iris is dormant, you can dig a 
rhizome, crush it and apply it as a poultice to the bite to drive out 
the poisons. Dried rhizome is available at better Chinese pharmacies.

	The Latin name 'anguifuga' literally means  "snake flees" 
thus the name 'Snake Bane'.

	Yet another curiosity, it is unique among the genus as the 
only beardless iris species to have a single bract beneath the 
flower- all others have two. This and a few other odd morphological 
characters make it the only member of its own Section Ophioiris 
(meaning 'snake iris').

	This is undoubtedly much more than you ever needed to know 
except it is easy to grow and guaranteed to keep snakes out of your 
garden - or not. 		Best		Jim W.

Dr. James W. Waddick
8871 NW Brostrom Rd.
Kansas City Missouri 64152-2711
Ph.    816-746-1949
Zone 5 Record low -23F
	Summer 100F +

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