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Virginia iris is a perennial plant. The slightly fragrant flowers (4 cm long, 7 cm across) consist of 3 horizontal sepals, or "falls", and 3 erect petals. The petals and sepals can vary in color from dark-violet to pinkish-white. The sepals have a splash of yellow to yellow-orange at the crest. Each plant has 2 to 6 flowers that bloom from April to May upon a single, erect, 30-90 cm tall stalk. The stalk is sometimes branched and has a slight zigzag appearance. The plant has 2 to 4 erect or arching, bright green, lance-shaped leaves that are flattened into one plane at the base. Leaves are 1–3 cm wide and are sometimes longer than the flower stalk. The fleshy roots (1–2 cm in diameter) are rhizomes that spread underground. Pale brown, variably shaped seeds are born in three-part fruit capsules (3–6 cm long, 1–2 cm wide).
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The Cherokee and other tribes in the southeastern United States are known to have used Virginia iris for its medicinal properties. The root was pounded into a paste that was used as a salve for skin. An infusion made from the root was used to treat ailments of the liver, and a decoction of root was used to treat "yellowish urine". Virginia iris may have been one of the iris species used by the Seminole to treat "shock following alligator-bite".
This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Agriculture document "PLANTS Profile for Iris virginica (Virginia iris)".