Iris histrioides 'George' is among the first of the very early spring flowers to come into bloom in the Chicago area.
George is actually a hybrid between Iris reticulata and Iris histrioides and combines the early flowering of histrioides with the robust vigor of the reticulata parent. The flowers are composed of three upright petals known as flags and three petals that hang down, known as falls. The dark purple falls contain a blotch of white edged in yellow, known as a nectar guide.
Close observation on a sunny day will provide an opportunity to see bees and other nectar-gathering insects landing on the blotch and following the yellow strips inside the flower to the nectar. Very close observation will reveal pollen stuck to the backs of the insects, which provides for pollination of the flowers as the bees move from one flower to another.
The genus name is derived from the Greek iris, a messenger from the gods who traveled to earth on a rainbow. About 300 species of iris can be found in a wide range of habitats in the northern hemisphere, varying in size from diminuative very-early-spring alpines to tall bearded and Juno irises, up to 3 feet in height, blooming near mid summer.