Answer: Late spring and early summer.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 38 – No 09 – September 2019
Iris (Greek for “rainbow”) is a group of flowers that come in a wide variety of striking color variations and is found gardens around the world. They are erect herbaceous perennials notable for ornamental, large, unobstructed ruffled flowers that have a distinctive architecture—composed of three outer hanging sepals (falls) and three inner petals (standards) usually arched and erect.1 This sits on top of stiff green two- to three-foot stalks (scapes) that originate from leaf bundles (fans) of sword-like leaves. They open in late spring and early summer.
Toxins and Symptoms
There are more than 200 species of iris and related plants. The entire plant is toxic. The noxious compounds have been variously called irisin, irone, iridin, irisin, and irisine. The highest concentrations of toxins are found in the rhizomes (underground stems) and bulbs, while lesser amounts are found in the stems and flowers.
Poisoning is primarily seen in inquisitive dogs and cats, but toxins can affect humans if they are exposed. Iris toxicity is generally mild in humans, but in pets and cattle, it can cause serious illness and death.
Symptoms of iris poisoning in pets vary in severity depending on amount of exposure and which part of the plant was ingested.
Consumption of the toxic compounds—resinoids and pentacyclic toxic terpenoids—will cause increased salivation, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, ulcers, and sores in the muzzles and lips of the animal as well as bleeding of the stomach and small intestine.
If toxicity occurs in humans, the most common symptoms are skin irritation from dermal exposure, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea in cases of substantial ingestion.2
There is no specific treatment. Supportive care is advised.
Orris (Iris pallida) has been used in the perfume and pharmacy industry for hundreds of years because irone emits a violet smell and serves as a fixative, causing perfumes to hold their scent longer. Extract of orris is found in gin, which is why some people are allergic to it.3
Iris dilutions are also listed as a homeopathic remedy for “sick headaches” that “begin with blurred vision.”
- Turner NJ, von Aderkas P. The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms. Portland and London: Timber Press; 2009.
- Shelmire B. Contact dermatitis from vegetation. Southern Med J. 1940;33(4):337.
- Stewart A. The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks. 1st ed. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books; 2013.
- Curtis S, Fraser R, Kohler I. Neal’s Yard Natural Remedies. Middlesex, England: Penguin Group; 1988.