Iris tuberosus

Synon. Hermodactylus tuberosus

Widow iris, snakes head iris                                                                               Ίρις

Iridaceae - iris family                                                                                   Monocot.


Hidden amongst a tangle of their own leaves, this iris is difficult to pick out unless looked for carefully. It has sophisticated colouring, with green or yellow petals with dark purple or brown markings on lower lip; a less common bright yellow form also occurs. The leaves are long and narrow up to 55cm long and are square in cross section. The flowers have a pleasant light fragrance.

The group of irises to which it belongs have only recently been confirmed as irises by genetic studies. They were originally placed in this group but then separated to a separate genus, Hermodactylus, meaning the fingers of Hermes. This name was given not because of the phallic shape of the budding flowers (Hermes evolved as a god form the stone phalli, part of the pre-hellenic fertility cult) but form the resemblance of the roots to fingers reaching down into the ground.


4-5cm, 4-5cm 14-18cm                                                            JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC

           The Greek God Hermes

                 Son of Zeus, Hermes was born to the earth goddess, Maia, who took him to

          a mountain cave where he was cared for by his nurse Cyllene. He grew rapidly into

          a mischievous boy and the first time Cyllene left the cave to draw water for his bath, Hermes left the cave to seek adventure. He found a herd of fine cattle and stole them, covering their hooves with soft bark to disguise their footprints and returned to his cave.

The cows belonged to Apollo who went in search for them. Attracted by beautiful music coming from a cave, he discovered Hermes; he also noticed two white cowhides stretched out which he recognised as his own. He scooped up Hermes and took him to Mount Olympus to be judged by his father. Zeus had difficulty believing that a son of his could be a thief, but he was convinced by Apollo's evidence. Hermes confessed and offered to return all Apollo's cattle except the two he had already slaughtered. When asked what he had done with these two, he explained that he had divided them into twelve portions. He had burned eleven portions and had eaten one, explaining that this was a sacrifice to the twelve gods of Olympus, and that he was the twelfth God:This was the first sacrifice to the gods.

On returning to the cave, Apollo noticed a musical instrument he had never seen before, which Hermes had played so melodiously, made from the upturned shell of a turtle with gut strings. Apollo claimed the instrument as his own as he was the God of music and Hermes agreed to let Apollo keep the lyre if he was allowed to keep the cattle, and this was agreed. Apollo took the child Hermes back to Olympus and explained the recent events to Zeus, who was impressed by Hermes intelligence and diplomacy and made him into his herald, giving him a wand with white tassels, a gold helmet to keep off the rain and winged sandals.

Hermes not only acted as herald to Zeus in the world of man but also as a messenger between Olympus and the underworld and it was his task to lead the dead to the underworld, doing so in a calm and gentle manner.

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