about image 1600 (Blue Flag iris)
Iris versicolor, one of our most beautiful native northeastern North American wildflowers, also known as Blue Flag or Purple Iris, has an interesting cultural history in Quebec. In 1949 the Canadian federal government asked the provinces that had not already done so to select a provincial flower. Quebec was the only province not to pick a native wildflower but chose one from Europe, the Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum). Perhaps this happened because of confusion between the terms "fleur de lis" or "flower of the lily" and "flor de Louis" which was the heraldic symbol of King Louis Vll of the Franks of the 12th century. Louis' symbol was almost certainly a golden-coloured representation of the Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) which shape became the famous "fleur de lis" image of later French heraldry and the Quebec provincial flag. By 1999 pressure from the public finally persuaded the Quebec government to change the provincial flower to the Blue Flag Iris.