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National Symbols: National Flower

Yellow Iris (common name)
Iris pseudacorus (scientific name)


Also Known As
Yellow flag, yellow water flag


  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Liliopsida
  • Order: Asparagales
  • Family: Iridaceae
  • Genus: Iris
  • Species: I. pseudacorus

The Flower

The plant is commonly called yellow iris or yellow flag, and as with most irises, the flowers have six petals. The three central petals are small and grow straight up. The three outer petals are much longer, curve downward, and have small, deep red markings near the base of each petal. Each flower also has three downward-pointing sepals. Flowers usually grow in pairs, with four to 12 flowers on each stem. The stems are long, straight, fleshy, and upright. Leaves are also long and straight, and often grow higher than the stems. This flower grows from both rhizomes and seed. Because the plant grows well on river banks, seeds often fall into flowing water and are carried downstream to take root at new sites, thus maximizing the species' rate of spread.  

There is regular confusion as to the country's national flower, as the French widely use the fleur de lis symbol as a stylized ornament on buildings, flags, and merchandise. The fleur de lis has been used since ancient times in association with French royalty. Though the literal translation of fleur de lis is "lily flower," historians have attributed the origin of the symbol's flower to a species of wild iris, the Iris pseudacorus, perhaps because the three largest petals of the fleur de lis symbol most closely resemble an iris.

Physical Details

Duration: Perennial

Plant: A tall monocot with elongated, dark green, sword-like leaves that usually grow above the stem.   

Mature Height: average 1-1.5 m (3.2-5 ft)

Flowering: May-July

Flowers: 7-10 cm (1-2 in) across, on 1-1.2 m (3-4 ft) tall stalks, with three central upright petals and three outer downward curving petals.

Flower Color: Bright yellow

Leaves: Long, pointed, mid-green, growing erect from the ground

Fruit / Seed Color: Beige


Location: Wetlands, marshes, rich pastures, swamps, and wet ditches. Tolerates submersion and acidic soil.

Range: Native to Europe and Africa, Caucasus, and western Asia, naturalized and cultivated throughout most of the United States


Yellow flag is a hardy plant that grows quickly and spreads easily. Though it prefers to grow in water, it can tolerate months of drought and can become an invasive plant in regions where it has been naturalized.