Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Wild Iris, Northern Flag, Beachhead Iris
Iris setosa

Family: Iridaceae (eye-rid-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Iris (EYE-ris) (Info)
Species: setosa (set-OH-suh) (Info)

Synonym:Iris hookeri

» View all varieties of Iris

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

10 members have or want this plant for trade.


12-18 in. (30-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Midseason (MLa)


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

Awards (if applicable):
Unknown - Tell us

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By Weezingreens
Thumbnail #1 of Iris setosa by Weezingreens

By Weezingreens
Thumbnail #2 of Iris setosa by Weezingreens

By Weezingreens
Thumbnail #3 of Iris setosa by Weezingreens

By bobbix
Thumbnail #4 of Iris setosa by bobbix

By Weezingreens
Thumbnail #5 of Iris setosa by Weezingreens

By laurief
Thumbnail #6 of Iris setosa by laurief

By IslandJim
Thumbnail #7 of Iris setosa by IslandJim

There are a total of 11 photos.
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3 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive pigeon1943 On Oct 24, 2003, pigeon1943 from Harwinton, CT wrote:

my wild blue flag iris is so much better and more productive than the domesticated kind, which is smaller, and blooms quickly, than stops. I love this wild variety - please see my pix...

Positive suncatcheracres On Aug 28, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

Living in North Florida, zone 8b, I have never seen an Iris setosa, but I have seen many of its natural children, Iris versicolor, which will grow as far down as the Coastal South of the US, so I am quite interested in this species.

Iris setosa is the least dependent on wet conditions and has one of the widest native distributions of all the iris. It grows from Eastern Siberia, to Japan, then over the Bering Strait to Alaska, and then skips the middle of Canada to show up again in Eastern Canada, and then into Maine in the mainland US. Sometimes this far Eastern Canadian and Maine type is called I. hookeri. In Alaska I. setosa is often very short, under one foot tall.

Iris setosa is also unusual in that the standards (the three upright petals) are so reduced in size as to seem absent, putting it in the iris series Tripetalae. (If you are interested at all in the classification of plants, a study of the intricate structure of Iris classification is fascinating.)

Iris setosa hybridizes readily, and is a "hybridizer's dream." It is often crossed with the Laevigata group, which is a grouping of Asian, North American and European wetland iris, often found in the wild in standing water. Iris virginica, a giant--often over six feet tall--very common Laevigata native iris of the Southeastern US, and also called the Great Blue Flag, is the other parent of Iris versicolor. How this giant native iris of the Southeast US and the very short native iris of the North came to naturally cross to produce the beautifully multicolored Iris versicolor is a story of evolution at work.

Botanists think that during the height of the last ice age Iris setosa was pushed so far South to escape the advancing glaciers that it actually moved into the territory of Iris virginica in the Southeastern US, and there the two wild species naturally crossed to produce their lovely children, Iris versicolor. As the glaciers retreated back North, so did Iris setosa, and the two parents again became separated, but their children, Iris versicolor, still flourish, thousands of years later, both in the wild and in our gardens.

Iris versicolor did inherit a full set of chromosomes from both of its parents, having a total of l08, which is the most chromosomes for any iris, and nearly approaches the record for any plant! Having this many chromosomes makes I. versicolor very variable and vigorous. It will grow well in a border and crosses with the Japanese irises, creating Versatas, and also crosses with Siberians. The iris world is indeed very complex!

Positive Weezingreens On Sep 10, 2002, Weezingreens from Seward, AK (Zone 3b) wrote:

Our Alaskan wild iris grow in meadows, bogs and long the edges of waterways. They can grow up to 2 feet tall and have swordlike leaves. The flowers grow on sturdy stocks and can be blue, purple, violet, and occasionally white. Wild Iris adapt well to the garden, but may need to be divided every few years.

Wild Iris may be started from stratified seed, but it takes years for them to develop in size. Division is the easiest and most expeditious method.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anchorage, Alaska
Juneau, Alaska
Kenai, Alaska
Seward, Alaska
Harwinton, Connecticut
Venus, Florida
East Longmeadow, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts
Hibbing, Minnesota
Hammonton, New Jersey
Massena, New York
Mount Hood Parkdale, Oregon
Poulsbo, Washington
Sundance, Wyoming

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