Wood iris

Wood iris

Dietes iridioides

Scientific name

This iris has sword shaped evergreen dark green leaves arranged in a fan. It has a white flower with yellow and violet towards the centre. Dietes irioides flowers from spring through to summer but the flower lasts for only one morning. Heavy seed pods droop towards the ground. It is not common in gardens but considered a good plant for garden cultivation.

Formerly known as Moraea vegeta and often confused with Dietes grandiflora which has larger flowers and darker colouring.

Pollinated by bees and other insects, but also self-pollinates. It grows well in large clumps in sun or semi-shade and self seeds easily. Plant seeds in spring or divide rhizome clumps up.

These tough, drought-resistant plants will thrive in semi-shade as well as full sun, often where little else will grow. Dietes iridioides will tolerate both wind and frost, and seeds itself freely.

Medicinal uses include treatment for dysentery, childbirth, hypertension and first menstruation, and also used as a goat tonic. It is also an important part of cultural practices, as described in plantZA: "Some people call this the rain iris as they believe that flowering of this plant presages rain...(and) some African cultures believe that, if you have been to a funeral or entered a house with a corpse, you must chew the rhizome and spit on the ground to take the bad luck away. And if you do not chew the rhizome, an immediate member of your family is going to die."

Also known as African iris and Fortnight lily

Propagation instructions

By seed

Sow seeds in spring or divide large clumps which spread by means of rhizomes.

By cutting

Plantlets often develop on the flower stems and root easily when they touch the ground. Dietes is effective in mass plantings under trees and around water features.

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Wikipedia page »

Seedbank Quantity
Arundel Seedbank 200
Total 200
We currently have no plants of this species in our home nurseries. Do you have any plants or do you know where we can get some? Get in touch!

This table below shows how many plants we are trying to obtain for this species.

Site Area Quantity
Site #15 Rosebank 40
Site #66 Mowbray 70
Site #64 Mowbray 30
Site #60 Bishop's Court 20
Total 160

Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

It provides medicinal value

Wind resistant


Easy to grow

It provides food for:


Dietes iridioides is indigenous to: Peninsula Shale Renosterveld

Communitree Newsletter

Receive our monthly updates in your mailbox

Our sponsors

We thank our 2019 sponsors for their support in our work. If your company or organisation wants to help support Communitree, click here to get in touch.