Ground Iris Fibers Make Good, Strong Cordage

Photos By Steven Edholm & Tamara Wilder of Paleotecnics

Unlike most Pacifica iris leaves, those of California's Iris macrosiphon (and Oregon's I. tenax) contain exceptionally strong fibers. The fibers provided a source of cordage for local peoples for thousands of years. Visitors wrote of twisted and woven iris fibers being used for string, bags, cloth, nets, and ropes. Steven Edholm and Tamara Wilder of the program "Paleotecnics" in Boonville, California, explain how the fibers are removed.

Each year, Paleotecnics offers many workshops throughout northern California on a wide variety of ancient living skills, including the use of fibers from wild plants. Check their web site at

Ground iris fibers used for cordage

(Above) Each leaf has two strong fibers - one on each edge. (Center) Fibers are separated by pulling the leaf through the fingers to remove the softer parts. (Below) A twisted cord includes fibers from hundreds of iris leaves. Steven Edholm and Tamara Wilder's well-illustrated 2005 article: "Ground Iris: native Californian fiber plant, Iris macrosiphon" describes the use and processing of Ground Iris fibers.