History of Black Iris Plants


The black iris (Iris nigricans) is the national flower of Jordan, where it grows in the wild. The black iris is a member of the Iridaceae family, which comprises more than 60 genera and more than 1,800 species. Its rhizhome grows close to the surface of the soil, so it is easily uprooted. For this reason, it can be considered an endangered species, although measures are in place to ensure its preservation.

Wadi Rum Setting

Jordan's stunning pink desertscape of Wadi Rum is perhaps best known as the setting for the epic film, "Lawrence of Arabia." The film starred Peter O'Toole as the enigmatic British officer, T. E. Lawrence, who was based there at the time of the Great Arab Revolt of 1917 to 1918. What may be less well known is that more than 2,000 species of wildflowers grow in Wadi Rum. The black iris is prominent among them.

Medicinal Properties

Agricultural settlements have characterized Jordan since the first century B.C. Traditional healers used wild plants for medicine. Folk medicine remains a practice of tribal nomads like the Bedouin (Bedu) who inhabit areas like Wadi Rum. The black iris is among the wild plants with medicinal potential. Today, the University of Jordan conducts medicinal research on the black iris and numerous wild plants. Researchers also consult with Bedu and other practitioners to record how these plants are used medicinally.


In 1966, Jordan established The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature to spearhead environmental goals and educational programs. The society maintains Jordan's nature reserves. One of them is the Dana reserve, home to endangered animals like the Syrian wolf, but also to hundreds of plant species such as the black iris. Established during the 1990s, the Dana reserve remains the largest of Jordan's nature reserves, with an area of about 190 square miles.


In 1992, the black iris appeared for the first time on Jordanian currency. It was shown in the bottom right corner of a 20 Jordanian dinars note issued in 1992. Subsequently, the black iris appeared in the top right hand corner of a 50 Jordanian dinars note.


In 1995, Jordan issued a special commemorative coin to honor the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. The obverse sign of the coin featured the United Nations logo and the black iris. The reverse side carried a profile of King Hussein of Jordan. The mintage of the silver proof coin was 100,000. It had a value of 14 Jordanian dinars. A second coin of the same design was made of copper-nickel with a face value of 5 Jordanian dinars.

Royal Tradition

The black iris has a long association with royalty from ancient times. Today, Jordan's black iris is among the flowers featured on products manufactured by London based Traditional Arts Limited, which aims to support traditional approaches to art design.

Keywords: black iris history, Iris nigricans, Jordan's national flower

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for over 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in Stanislaus Magazine, Orientations, The Asia Magazine, and The Peninsula Group Magazine, among others. She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.