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Yellow Walking Iris: The Gardener’s Morale Booster

MsDora grew up, received early education and taught school in the Caribbean. Read her love and pride of the region—people and place.

I waited and waited to experience this unique flower!

I waited and waited to experience this unique flower!

Two of my friends invited me to accompany them on a visit to their friends’ house. While the two couples sat on the porch and talked, I meandered through the front yard among exotic plants, attractive and unfamiliar. As we prepared to leave, the hostess handed me what seemed to be just a sprig of grass. She said, “I can see that you like flowers. Plant this one. You’ll love it.”

She was right. Perhaps each of my plants extracts some positivity from me, but my yellow walking iris stands out as my favorite teacher, my morale booster, helping me improve my attitude specifically toward gardening, and generally toward life. I readily think of three virtues which this plant helps me to strengthen.

The plantlet bending right toward the ground can be broken at the joint  to start a new plant, or it will get buried in the ground, take root and "walk."

The plantlet bending right toward the ground can be broken at the joint to start a new plant, or it will get buried in the ground, take root and "walk."


It was January when the plantlet was given to me. Between then and November, the giver and I met three times in the grocery store. Each time she inquired how the plant was doing. “It looks really good,” I always replied, but the third time I queried, “But I thought you said it would bear a flower.”

“Be patient,” she smiled.

I had never seen the flower, but I did my research on its name. It is identified by its color because some species in this Iridaceae family bear white or bluish-purple flowers. Walking is part of the name because the weight of the plantlet (like the one I was given) bends down to the ground, takes root and strides or walks across the garden. It bears resemblance to the iris, so it is commonly called yellow walking iris or traveling iris, but its botanical name is Trimezia steyermarkii, one of about 20 of the Trimezia species. I waited and waited to see this unique flower!

The bright green stalks of the plant, forming a fan-like clump at the base were a beauty to behold. The sword-like leaves standing 2½ to 3 feet tall looked elegant, but where was the flower? At last, in December it budded and bloomed. Wish I had not seemed impatient a few weeks earlier. Now with every new bloom, comes a voice chiding me, “Be patient.” I learned that anxiety does not contribute to the gardening, or to any other life process. Better to enjoy what is in the moment, than to become frustrated over what is not yet.

At its base, the plant forms an elegant fan-like clump.

At its base, the plant forms an elegant fan-like clump.


The yellow flower expands only 3-4 inches across. To appreciate its intricate beauty, it must be viewed close up. There are 6 outer segments, 3 small erect petals alternating with 3 larger ones. In the center are 3 flattened petal-like curves with conspicuous brown spots which add to its exotic flair. I took a picture of my first flower and forwarded it. One of my friends messaged me almost immediately that she wanted it in her garden. When I informed her of its size, she was disappointed. She wanted flowers large enough for other people, even passersby, to see from a distance.

Having invested so much physical and mental energy in anticipation of my yellow walking iris, the size of the flower is secondary to my admiration for it. It conjures up gratitude that I have the eyesight to observe the complexities within this little flower, and the mental acuity to appreciate it. My choice to like it needs no approval. Contentment needs no second vote. I want what I have.

There is a purpose for even a flower that lasts less than one day.

There is a purpose for even a flower that lasts less than one day.


The yellow walking iris in my yard is located outside the reach of the earliest morning sunlight. The bud opens up about ten o’clock, and by four in the afternoon, it begins to fold. Gone forever! It lasts less than a day. So why nurture a flower with such a short life?

And why is this temporary beauty welcome in so many places? It is native to southern Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela, and it is cultivated in subtropical and tropical regions including Florida. It is naturalized in Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Leeward Islands.

Why do gardeners bother to accommodate it in full or partial sunlight in humid areas? Why pay attention to its need for well-drained soil although, when established, it will survive drought and heavy rainfall?

My purpose for accommodating this plant is that having seen and loved it, I would hate to have a garden without its unique, interesting display. It gives me pleasure to show it off, and I appreciate its purpose in lending its unique beauty to my garden. There is a place in this world for everyone and everything with a purpose.

Edward F. Gilman from the University of Florida is also struck by the beauty of this flower. “The walking iris is quite lovely when massed together in the shade. The upright foliage combines with the occasional flower to strike a bold pose in the landscape.”


The yellow walking iris has a singular purpose—to lend its ornamental beauty to our gardens, parks and landscapes. The gardener’s purpose is to cultivate and share its uniqueness. Many other flowers nurture our well-being while we nurture them, but it is easy to select this little flower as a favorite morale booster, because the small, yellow flower which looks like a cross between an iris and an orchid is one of a kind. It reminds us that our uniqueness is an asset which can be beneficial to our world. It proves that size is not a factor in being the best that we can be.


  • CABI: Invasive Species Compendium, Trimezia steyermarkii (yellow walking iris), November 20, 2019
  • Illinois Wild Flowers: Weedy Wildflowers of Illinois, Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus, September 11, 2019 J
  • John & Jacq’s Garden: Trimezia steyermarkii (Yellow Walking Iris), June 12, 2016
  • University of Florida: Gardening Solutions, Walking Iris, July 31, 2019

© 2021 Dora Weithers

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