Take a stroll up onto the Butts this week and there, beneath a tangled little copse of bramble, elder and hawthorn, you may see this delightful display of orange seeds hanging like early Christmas decorations on the stems of the Gladwin Iris.
The Gladwin Iris is one of our two native Iris plants, yet it is often unrecognised out in the wild in summer because of its rather scruffy drab yellow-grey-purple flowers. In fact, so indistinct are the flowers of those plants on the Butts, that we have never yet observed them in bloom. Colours in the petals of local variants can be quite diverse and these are perhaps more drab than most, but if they are not showy in summer, they come into their own in autumn with an illuminating display of orange seeds that stand out vividly against the subdued backdrop colours of the season.
The Gladwin Iris is also known by another more common but less attractive name, the Stinking Iris: this because someone long ago considered the smell of the crushed leaves to be rather unpleasant. Whoever it was, they were probably squashing the leaves with a pestle and mortar in the preparation of a herbal remedy, and it was perhaps contaminated in some way, for those who practice such procedures today insist the leaves have no such odour. In fact, regardless of any supposed smell, the Gladwin Iris was highly valued as a medicinal plant, and a poultice made from its leaves was a trusted prescription for removing deep splinters and arrowheads from the flesh.
Today we use modern medicines and our gardeners more often plant imported Irises for the prettiness of their blooms, but in our humble native Gladwin we have an example of how Nature offers beauty in more varied means than just a pretty flower.