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Toxic parts

The roots of this plant are toxic to grazing mammals[1]. Plants can cause skin irritations and allergies in some people[2].

Edible uses

There are no edible uses listed for Iris foetidissima.

Material uses

A good ground cover plant, succeeding in dense shade and in dry soils[3]. Rather slow to spread though, needing weeding for the first year or two[3]. Plants should be spaced about 60cm apart each way[4].
There are no material uses listed for Iris foetidissima.

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Stinking gladwin has a long history of medicinal use, though it can be rather strong in its action and so is little used nowadays[5]. The root is anodyne, antispasmodic and cathartic[6][7]. A decoction of the roots acts as a strong purge, it has also been used as an emmenagogue and for cleaning eruptions[6]. The powdered or infused dried root is beneficial in the treatment of fainting, nervous complaints and to relieve pains and cramps[6][5]. The plant has been used as a cure for ringworm[8].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Soil surface

Ecological Functions

Ground cover


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is it is ripe in a cold frame[6]. Stored seed should be sown as early in the year as possible in a cold frame, it may take 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first year. Plant out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Division, best done in July after flowering. 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.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Iris foetidissima. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


An easily grown and very tolerant plant, it succeeds in most positions in any good soil in sun or partial shade[9][10]. Succeeds in dense shade. Prefers a moist soil[6] but succeeds in dry soils and, once established, is drought tolerant[11]. Thrives in a bog garden[12]. Requires a well-drained soil containing some lime[13] and succeeds on pure chalk[10]. Established plants are tolerant of considerable neglect and can survive dense weed competition[K].

The evergreen leaves are not very hardy, being killed back by cold winds around -15°c[14], though the rootstock is much hardier and the plant soon recovers in spring. A good plant for woodland edges[15]. Plants often self-sow[208, K]. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value[11]. The crushed leaves emit a strong odour which, at a distance, resembles hot roast beef[6]. On closer acquaintance the scent becomes disagreeable[6].

Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[10].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Iris foetidissima. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Iris foetidissima.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Iris foetidissima
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
permanent shade
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Drought
  • Strong wind
  • Maritime exposure
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
Flower Colour
Flower Type


  1. ? Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192176218 (1969-00-00)
  2. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  3. ? Royal Horticultural Society. Ground Cover Plants. Cassells. ISBN 0-304-31089-1 (1989-00-00)
  4. ? 4.04.1 Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover J. M. Dent & Sons ISBN 0-460-12609-1 (1990-00-00)
  5. ? Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs Pan Books Ltd. London. ISBN 0-330-30725-8 (1990-00-00)
  6. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
  7. ? 7.07.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
  8. ? 8.08.1 Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. (1986-00-00)
  9. ? Innes. C. The World of Iridaceae ()
  10. ? Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants J. M. Dent & Sons, London. ISBN 0 460 86048 8 (1990-00-00)
  11. ? 11.011.1 Chatto. B. The Dry Garden. Dent ISBN 0460045512 (1982-00-00)
  12. ? Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-86318-386-7 (1990-00-00)
  13. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
  14. ? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30936-9 (1991-00-00)
  15. ? Baines. C. Making a Wildlife Garden. ()
  16. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)
  17. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)

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