Yellow Flag

Iris Pseudacorus Feileastram
Deirdre McGuirk

The Yellow Flags are emerging and soon our river sides, ditches and bogs will be in full bloom with this beautiful flower.  Iris was the Roman goddess of the rainbow and the flower is named after her for its beautiful colours.  The Yellow Flag or Iris is a perennial flower and is the only native Iris in Ireland.  The Yellow Flag marks the start of the summer in Ireland and is something that can bring hope for the months ahead.


The Yellow Flag was an important part of Irish folklore.  With the festival of Corpus Christi approaching it was customary at this time to put Yellow Flags on people’s doorsteps and on benches.  It was also believed that if a fairy changeling was cast out to the water it would return as a bunch of Yellow Flags.  In Irish legend, Étaín is described as having hair ‘like yellow flags in summer’.  In France the Yellow Iris is represented in the Fleur-de-lis, a symbol used in heraldry and the royal coat of arms of France.


The flower acts an important pollinator plant for bees, Dragonflies and Damselflies, its three yellow petals are used by flying insects to land upon.  It has three long tubes which contain the important nectar.  They were once an important habitat for the now protected Corncrake, providing them with shelter and cover.


The Yellow Flag has also been used in many folk remedies such as curing coughs, the root was used for toothache, the leaves were also heated up and applied to cure mumps.  The flowers were used to create a yellow dye and the root a black dye.  This flower is not only aesthetically pleasing but came to represent many people and places and has had many uses in everyday life.




Danaher, K., 1972. The Year in Ireland; Irish Calendar Customs. Cork: Mercier Press.

Devlin, Z., 2014. The Wildflowers of Ireland; A field Guide. Cork: The Collins Press.

Mac Coitir, N., 2006. Irish Wild Plants; Myths Legends and Folklore. Cork: The Collins Press.

Murray, A., 2020. Naturefile; Feileastram; Flag Iris. [Sound Recording] (RTÉ Lyric FM).

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0026, Page 0142, 1937-39. [Online]
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[Accessed 21 May 2021].

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0120, Page 182, 1937-39. [Online]
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[Accessed 21 May 2021].

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0899, Page 086, 1937-39. [Online]
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[Accessed 21 May 2021].



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