I was flicking through photos and rather randomly picked out some iris. So this post makes no sense at all really. These are the beards of bearded iris. (and the remarkable Conchita Wurst)
The bearded iris are the biggest group of iris and are named for the furry strip on the lower petals (fall). In the wild the species vary from small to 1m or so tall. The flowering time varies from April to June and, as with the hybrids, the smaller ones flower earliest and the taller ones bring the season to an end. There are many types of iris and there is some talk (as a result of something I don’t as yet understand) of splitting the Iris genus into 23 new genera. There have been a few plants (such as hermodactylis) that have slid in and out of the iris genus over the years but maybe it will affect a lot more of the iris soon. But I am pretty sure that the bearded iris are the ones that will remain as iris.
But, at present, the bearded iris are known as the pogon iris (after the word for beard) hence pogonophobia is the ‘fear of beards’.
In the wild iris the beards are presumably used to steer the pollinating insects – bees – into the centre of the flower. Above the beard is the stylar arm with is a petaloid stigma arm with a stigmatic flap that receives the pollen from the back of the bee. As the bee crawls into the flower to get to the nectar the stamen brushes pollen on its back (and I guess the beard tickles its tummy). As the bee backs out the stigmatic flap is pushed shut to prevent the flower being self pollinated. As it crawls in the next flower the stigmatic flap is pushed open to receive the pollen. Hopefully you can see all this below.
All this is a little out of season since these flowers are not open yet. But perhaps I can be forgiven because this is the second best time to divide and replant bearded iris. The best time is July but, if it is necessary, you can do it now. But if you do, you should be prepared to stake the plants if they send up flowers because they will not have had time to put down good roots.
And best wishes on this Good Friday.