The Milkweed Diaries

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Irises and Lilies-Beautiful Medicine

I came home from 5 days away to find the slender blue flag irises in the bog garden blooming, and the water lily in the frog pond...hurrah!

Both of these plants are medicinal.

The root of the native Blue Flag Iris, according to my Peterson's Field Guide, was used by native peoples in a poultice form on "swellings, sores, bruises, [and] rheumatism," and internally, as a tea, when a strong laxative or emetic was needed, or to stimulate bile flow.

Physicians used to use Blue Flag Iris as a stimulant and "blood cleanser," and homeopathic doctors apparently still use the plant "for migraines and as a cathartic, diuretic, and emetic."

I ordered these irises last year as bare root plants from Prairie Moon Nursery, a really fabulous online source for native plants. I planted them about a year ago, and now they're blooming for the first time.

Prairie Moon is a great source for ethically grown native plants of all sorts. What do I mean by ethically grown? Prairie Moon is a nursery that propagates their plants organically in outdoor beds, rather than robbing wild populations and damaging ecosystems. Here's a tidbit from their website about why that's important: Since persistent digging of wild plants can deplete and destroy local plant populations, it is important for prospective native plant buyers to be aware of the origin of commercially sold plants.

And then there's the Fragrant Water-Lily, which came from Short Mountain Sanctuary as a gift from Alan, who hauled the root in a giant heavy pot out to our land last year. He perforated the pot and we sunk it down in the water. It has exploded this year and is full of buds, and the first bloom is incredible (above). Peterson's says the roots were used by native peoples for lung ailments, mouth sores, and as a poultice for swellings.

Who knows if we will ever dig up any iris or water-lily roots for poultices, but it feels good having them around and they sure are gorgeous spring ornamentals....

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