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Family Iridaceae, composed of about 1,700 species of perennial herbaceous plants, as well as a few shrubs, in some 80 genera. It is known for ornamentals such as irises (genus Iris), gladioli (seegladiolus), crocuses, and freesias. Irises have swordlike, smooth leaves and bear showy flowers in a great variety of colours and sizes on a smooth stem. Most abundant and diverse in Africa, they are found nearly worldwide across temperate, subtropical, and tropical zones. The underground stems may be rhizomes (e.g., New World Iris species), bulbs (e.g., southwestern European Iris species), or corms (e.g., Gladiolus).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on iris family, visit Britannica.com.
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