Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
Gaelic names: Sealasdair, Seileasdair
Other names for yellow flag are yellow iris, yellow flag iris, segg and Jacob's sword. The word segg comes from the Anglo-Saxon word sedge which is a short sword. The leaves of this plant looks like swords, hence the name.
Yellow flag is thought to be the plant on which the heraldic "fleur-de-lis" was based.
This wildflower grows throughout the Western Isles by streams, rivers, in wet meadow areas and near houses. Yellow flag flowers early in the year in May, and is a very useful food source to the early emerging bees.
Redshank and corncrake like to nest in amongst the yellow flag's foliage, so listen out for the call of the corncrake.
This wildflower is easily grown on form a piece of the tuberous root (rhizome) of a divided plant .
Yellow Flag Uses
The juice of the root of yellow flag was sometimes used as a toothache remedy. Sucked up through the nose! In Mull the root was chewed as a toothache cure.
The root juice was used in the Western Isles to treat external ulcers.
There are records in Mull of the yellow flag root and daisies being crushed together. The resulting juice being poured into the nostrils (just one teaspoon) to promote saliva and mucus flow.
The leaves of the yellow flag were sometimes used in thatching the roofs of the blackhouses. They were a useful packing material to level up the base layer before the reeds, marram or heather were added.
Yellow flag leaves are one of a number of species used in basketmaking. They can be interwoven in the style of the scandinavian birch bark baskets or used in combination with other materials.
The roots of yellow flag were used as a dyer's plant giving a blue-black colour with a copperas mordant. Green or brown with alum and iron mordant. The leaves are said to give a dark green with the copperas mordant.
We have a long history of making use of this plant. Pieces of prepared yellow flag root have been found in middens in Neolithic settlements like Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands.
One of the modern popular uses of this plant is in including it as one of the species comprising a reedbed to help in the purification of grey water before it enters our natural water courses thus reducing pollution.
Yellow Flag in the Western Isles
Yellow flag is a native plant of the Western Isles. We also have a colony of purple flag - Iris versicolor growing in the Isle of Harris. This started as an escaped culivated plant, and it is a protected species listed in the Red Data Book.
Photography © Suzanne Harris
Riof - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
28th May, 2007