Appalachian Dialect Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Flags = Iris


flag, flag lily noun An iris (Iris prismatica).
1995-97 Montgomery Coll. flag (Ellis); flag lily (Adams, Brown, Cardwell, Norris, Oliver).
[DARE chiefly South, South Midland]

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I was reminded of the common name for iris a few weeks back when AW left the following comment:

“Beautiful picture of Iris (flags), and one of my favorite colors.
I knew and hear all of these but don’t use heifer or heered.  I had a 6th grade teacher that broke me of heered and winder for window.”

I did not grow up using flag for iris, but have heard it in my area. I wonder if its a common usage where you live?


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  • Reply
    Linda Rice
    June 23, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    I grew up in West tn and we called them flags. I still do. My husband calls them iris. He is from kentucky

  • Reply
    Elaine Medley
    June 16, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    My mama always called them flags! I was probably grown when I discovered they were iris!

  • Reply
    Leslie Haynie
    June 16, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    I thought the iris that grew next to water were flags and all the other irises were called irises.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    my mother’s favorite flower was the purple iris followed closely by roses. She had multiple iris planted around our yard, in multiple colors – mainly blue, purple, and yellow. I remember her occasionally calling them flags, but mainly she referred to them as iris. My siblings and I often exchange cards with pictures of purple iris on them – no one has to mention our mother because that flower picture says it all. My mother grew up in rural upstate South Carolina- as did I.
    In Ohio, where I now live, we have tiger lilies – orange flowers – growing wildly throughout. I love to see them blooming.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 16, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    That picture of Flags or Iris reminds me of “A Preacher-in-the-Pulpit” for some reason. Me and Harold use to go Lizard Hunting way up the branch at the place where we was raised. It’s called ( I forgot the name right now ), but it’ll come to me, later. Charlie Soolesby was the 2 one to own our holler, and him or the man who was there 1st, had a Huge Sawdust Pile near our Yellow Cherry Tree. In July or August, it was Loaded.

    Anyway, when we got a good ways from the house, we looked and saw more Moss than you can shake a stick at on logs across the creek. Right above that is a bed of touch-me-nots, where I pick-up my water, was “A Preacher-in-the-Pulpit”. …Ken

  • Reply
    Susanna Holstein
    June 16, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Yes, especially the old-time pale blue ones, called “blue flags”. Then there’s “yellow flag”, a bright yellow flower that grows in damp places. I don’t know its real name.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 16, 2020 at 11:28 am

    I am not a flower person, but Mama was. Perhaps that’s why she hardly ever went to the garden without great difficulty. So Daddy planted a Snowball tree near the kitchen, so she could look out the windows and see it blooming in April and May. She had a bunch of Lavender bushies or trees, and they bloomed nearly all year.

    Me and Harold went the motto, “If you can’t eat it, don’t plant it.” We’d go to the garden and eat them little bity tommy toes just before Supper and it would make Mama mad as far. She said it would ruin our Supper, but we were hungry. It had been a long time since we ate at School and the squirrels were waiting. …Ken

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    June 16, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Yes, they were called flags during my childhood.

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Beth Higman
    June 16, 2020 at 10:28 am

    I am from Arkansas, and I didn’t know they were a different name. We called them flags. I didn’t know they were the same flower until I was grown!!

  • Reply
    June 16, 2020 at 10:04 am

    I had heard that, but may have read it and thought it possible may have read it many years ago on the BP from a post from reader. It stands out in my mind but not certain from where. I didn’t post it yesterday, but my Dad would never eat rye bread because he said it smelled lie kerosene 🙂 I love it especially with a good reuben sandwich.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2020 at 9:45 am

    I’ve never heard of irises called “flags.” Mama had some pretty irises growing by the back door, as well as some in her flower bed. I think they have the sweetest fragrance.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 16, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Absolutely! Anywhere I encounter a flower like the one pictured I call it a flag. I grew up calling them flags and forever they shall be so. Blue flags were my mother’s favorite. I have some of them here on the place.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2020 at 9:08 am

    I live in southern West Virginia and my grandfather used to call them flags. He passed away in 1986 and he’s the only person I’ve ever known to call them that so it must not be very common where I live either.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2020 at 9:07 am

    This is the time of year the flags bloom, bringing back childhood memories with them. The orange ones that grow wild are what we called flags. The creek bank behind my aunt’s house is where I remember the flags blooming by the hundreds. Even as a child we couldn’t help but notice the beautiful flowers and the ocean of color that surrounded our swimming hole and playhouse. I still call them flags and guess I always will.

  • Reply
    Sallie The Apple Doll Lady
    June 16, 2020 at 8:57 am

    I don’t remember if I heard them called flags as I grew up in E Tn. But I do remember hearing people say that after wearing the same long johns all winter that it was time to take a bath and wash the long johns “when the blue flags (native blue iris) bloomed”. I heard lots of stories and old expressions as I demonstrated lye soap making at festivals and fairs for several years. The long johns, aprons and other vintage clothing hanging from clothespins on a line behind me reminded people of a lot of things.

  • Reply
    allan guy
    June 16, 2020 at 8:49 am

    we always called them Iris and we had a bunch of them – all types and colors. One day we had an older couple over who were from southern Illinois, and the called them flags. That was the first time I ever heard that.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    June 16, 2020 at 8:30 am

    Pearl Cable called them flags.

  • Reply
    Doug Bishop
    June 16, 2020 at 8:03 am

    I grew up on the Del-Mar-Va peninsula (Caroline County, Md.) and have heerd them called Flags many times, but not for many years.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 16, 2020 at 7:47 am

    My Mom called iris “flags” but I think it is one of those usages that is probably on its way out. I have not heard it in a long time. I think I could safely say a very long time. School, television and travel has (as I used to commonly hear) ‘weaned us’ from using the proper Appalachian names, like “laurel” instead of “ivy”.

    I also think, but can’t be sure, that AW and I tend to use the same words in the same way a little bit more than compared to other parts of the country. That is there seems to be an eastern KY speech that is a variation within Appalachian Regional. But if it exists, it is not much of a difference.

    • Reply
      Gaye Blaine
      June 16, 2020 at 7:52 pm

      No, flags is not on its at out. You just have to listen in western NC!!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 16, 2020 at 6:56 am

    Tip, that is a stunning picture! I’ve never heard of flag or flag lily but then I’m not a flower person. I know a rose when I see it I even have a rose bush in my yard that Granny gave me. It’s still small but it has been alive for two or three years now and I’m quite proud of that.

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