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I gave it a really good sniff but I smelled nothing. It was only later that I read the smell comes from the leaves, but only when you crush or rub them, which I didn’t do. And, even then, some people can’t smell the ‘slightly stale, raw beef’ smell that Stinking iris is named for. Even its scientific name, Iris foetidissima, refers to the smell, as do two of its vernacular names: Roast-beef plant and Bloody bones.

171030 Stinking iris (7)

However, I’m not here to warn about this iris’s smell nor, in fact, to extol the virtues of the plant itself, which is often a bit untidy and tatty looking, but rather to praise the beauty of its seeds. The flowers themselves are nothing to write home about, being a rather dull greyish-purple but the seeds erupt in the autumn, like bright orange peas in a papery brown pod. As the weather gets colder, if they’re not plundered as food by birds, they turn a fabulous scarlet and then, eventually, if the weather’s not too wet, dry to a rich golden brown. Just beautiful!