Also known as the African Iris or Cape Iris, the Small Forest Iris (Dietes iridoides) grows in moist conditions along forest margins and under-stories along southern and eastern South Africa. A significant number of them were growing alongside the paths that wind through the forested areas of Tsitsikamma.

Typical of their growth are the sword-shaped green leaves in the form of a loose fan.

Their waxy flowers are very attractive.

Note the yellow-orange blotches and orange marks at the base.


The autumnal Karoo landscape is dotted about with mauve flowers of the Karoo Iris (Moraea polystachya) which has distinctive yellow markings.

This flower was first described by Thunberg in 1782, from a collection he had made in the Eastern Cape ‘in the area of the Sundays and Fish Rivers’. I find it fascinating to discover that our flora was already being studied over two hundred years ago!

Seeing them blooming so prolifically, it is surprising to learn that each flower lasts for only a day. The flowering period lasts for six to eight weeks, however, ensuring a succession of flowers that brighten up the veld – even though they have proved to be toxic to domestic livestock. The photograph above shows withered blossoms, fresh blossoms, as well as tightly curled buds getting ready to open.