Herb: Orris

Latin name: Iris germanica florentina

Synonyms: Iris florentina

Family: Iridaceae (Iris Family)

Medicinal use of Orris:

The dried root is diuretic, expectorant and stomachic. It is taken internally in the treatment of coughs, catarrh and diarrhoea. Externally it is applied to deep wounds. The root is harvested in late summer and early autumn and dried for later use. The juice of the fresh root is a strong purge of great efficiency in the treatment of dropsy.

Description of the plant:


90 cm
(2 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Probably an albino form of I. germanica, it is not found in a truly wild situation.

Edible parts of Orris:

The root can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a food flavouring. The root may take several years of drying to develop its full fragrance.

Other uses of the herb:

The root is a source of Orris powder which has the scent of violets. It is obtained by grinding up the dried root. It is much used as a fixative in perfumery and pot-pourri, as an ingredient of toothpastes, breath fresheners etc and as a food flavouring. The root can take several years of drying to fully develop its violet-like fragrance, when fresh it has an acrid flavour and almost no smell. An essential oil is obtained from the fresh root, this has the same uses as the root. The root has been burnt in open fires in order to sweeten the smell of a room. The juice of the root is sometimes used as a cosmetic and also for the removal of freckles from the skin. A black dye is obtained from the root. A blue dye is obtained from the flowers. The seeds are used as rosary beads. Plants can be grown for ground cover, the dense mat of roots excluding all weeds.

Propagation of Orris:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed should be sown as early in the year as possible in a cold frame. A sterile plant, it does not produce seed. Division, best done after flowering though it is usually successful at most times of the year. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Probably an albino form of I. germanica, it is not found in a truly wild situation.

Known hazards of Iris germanica florentina:

The leaves, and especially the rhizomes, of this species contain an irritating resinous substance called irisin. If ingested this can cause severe gastric disturbances. Plants can cause skin irritations and allergies in some people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.