Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Provincial Post - Quebec Fleurs-de-Lys



The Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor Linne) is the provincial flower for Quebec and has been represented on the provincial flag since 1948. There still seems to be some confusion as to what flower is actually represented by the Fleur-de-lys on the Quebec flag as some sources claim it is the Madonna lily while others say is is the iris. It goes back to the fact that the emblem was taken from the French who used it as  a symbol for their own purposes. The French flower is gold rather than white and is believed to be the Iris pseudacorus. The white fleurs-de-lis on Quebec's flag are symbols of purity, which originally represented the Virgin Mary.

 According to Pierre-Augustin Boissier de Sauvages, an 18th century French naturalist and lexicographer:
"The old fleurs-de-lis, especially the ones found in our first kings' sceptres, have a lot less in common with ordinary lilies than the flowers called flambas [in Occitan], or irises, from which the name of our own fleur-de-lis may derive. What gives some colour of truth to this hypothesis that we already put forth, is the fact that the French or Franks, before entering Gaul itself, lived for a long time around the river named Luts in the Netherlands. Nowadays, this river is still bordered with an exceptional number of irises —as many plants grow for centuries in the same places—: these irises have yellow flowers, which is not a typical feature of lilies but fleurs-de-lis. It was thus understandable that our kings, having to choose a symbolic image for what later became a coat of arms, set their minds on the iris, a flower that was common around their homes, and is also as beautiful as it was remarkable. They called it, in short, the fleur-de-lis, instead of the flower of the river of lis. This flower, or iris, looks like our fleur-de-lis not just because of its yellow colour but also because of its shape: of the six petals, or leaves, that it has, three of them are alternatively straight and meet at their tops. The other three on the opposite, bend down so that the middle one seems to make one with the stalk and only the two ones facing out from left and right can clearly be seen, which is again similar with our fleurs-de-lis, that is to say exclusively the one from the river Luts whose white petals bend down too when the flower blooms."(source)

Flag of Quebec

The Blue Flag Iris is distributed across the eastern side of Canada from Manitoba to Newfoundland. It is the only native iris to Canada. Like all irises the blue flag prefers a moist to wet site and likes sun to part sun. The flower colour varies and is known as the rainbow iris ('versicolor' - more on that below). It grows to three feet tall and the leaves are sword shaped. Blooms occur from May to August depending on the location and once finished the petals curl up before turning brown and dropping.  The seeds are grown in a three-angled capsule and are dispersed before winter.
The rhizome contains a toxic chemical iridin which has been used by the Native Americans as a cathartic and an emetic. The plant juice is known to cause dermatitis to sensitive individuals, so wear gloves if you are planting irises! Attractive to hummingbirds and bees.

Other names : blue flag iris, wild iris, northern blue flag, harlequin blue flag




IRIS was the goddess of the rainbow, the messenger of the Olympian gods. She was often represented as the handmaiden and personal messenger of Hera. Iris was a goddess of sea and sky--her father Thaumas "the wondrous" was a marine-god, and her mother Elektra "the amber" a cloud-nymph. For the coastal-dwelling Greeks, the rainbow's arc was most often seen spanning the distance beteween cloud and sea, and so the goddess was believed to replenish the rain-clouds with water from the sea. Iris had no distinctive mythology of her own. In myth she appears only as an errand-running messenger and was usually described as a virgin goddess. Her name contains a double meaning, being connected both with iris, "the rainbow," and eiris, "messenger."
(source)


Where in Canada is Quebec?

It is the big purple province in the east.

10 comments:

  1. I just learned a lot of new things about iris! And I didn't know the origin of fleur-de-lis either, thanks for all the info.

    I have a special relationship with irises, it was my granfather's favourite flower. I was the oldest grandchild and the only one who was allowed to come out with him to the garden when he was working and 'helping' him. I remember as a 6 year old deciding that when I grew up I was going to have a garden like my grandfather, with lots of irises. And I have that :-)

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    1. Thanks Hellene. I was surprised myself of the history of the flag for Quebec. I do not have any irises but now I would like to find the iris versicolour for my garden.

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  2. Dziękuję za te nieznane mi dotąd informacje o tych kwiatkach. Bardzo je zresztą lubię. Pozdrawiam.
    Thank you for those unknown to me before about these flowers. I like them very much indeed. Yours.

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    1. I always appreciate hearing from you Giga

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  3. That was very interesting what you've written. I like irises and I didn't know that they are the flowers for Quebec. I'll follow your blog, visit my Slavic garden blog some day :) Greetings from Poland!

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    1. Welcome and thanks for checking out my blog. I will happily visit your blog soon to see what you are doing in Poland.

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  4. What a great piece of history! Time and time again we see how plants are mirrored in the life and culture of mankind.

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    1. Hi Helen, I agree with you completely. Knowing the history or background of plants or garden styles often helps to put things in perspective and give you a better sense of the world.

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  5. Hi Patty, I was particularly interested to know of the possible connection between the Quebec flag, the iris flower and the Fleur-de-lys.
    I have good news as well. You won the copy of Gardening for a Lifetime: http://threedogsinagarden.blogspot.ca/2013/01/and-winners-are.html
    Can you let me know your home address so I can get the copy out in the mail to you. You can reach me by email at jenc_art@hotmail.com.

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  6. I hadn't thought about the Iris and Fleur-de-lis connection. Fascinating, and what a worthy flower for the symbol. I love Irises, and there are so many varieties and cultivars. The one you show is especially elegant.

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