Our Native Irises: Dwarf Woodland Irises

Iris cristata: Crested Iris

The crested iris occurs from the Ohio River valley into the central southeastern states with several disjunct populations in the central Mississippi river valley in west-central Illinois and eastern Iowa and a population in northeastern Ohio.

Iris cristata.
The flowers of Iris cristata can vary from purple to lavender blue to white. Photo by Thomas G. Barnes, University of Kentucky.

Map of the range of Iris cristata in North America.
Range map of Iris cristata. Courtesy of the USDA PLANTS Database.

Iris cristata has a violet to light blue to an occasionally white flower. The sepals have a signal composed of three parallel yellow ridges. Crested iris blooms in the spring on a one- to two-flowered inflorescence. The wide arching leaves arise from shallowly rooted, creeping rhizomes.

Iris cristata is commonly found growing in calcareous soils, in rich wooded slopes and floodplain forests in dappled shade.

Iris cristata var. alba.
The white color form of Iris cristata var. alba is not common but is occasionally found throughout its range. Photo by Thomas G. Barnes, University of Kentucky.

Iris cristata.
The golden yellow crest on the sepal of Iris cristata is the structure for which this species of iris was named. Photo by Larry Stritch, U.S. Forest Service.

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