1888, Note on our Native Irises by Sereno Watson
Garden And Forest p.18, March 7, 1888
Note on our Native Irises.
MANY old world Irises have long been and still are favorites in cultivation, but our own native species have received little attention from horticulturists, and most of them are imperfectly known even to professed botanists. As they are among the handsomest of our wild flowers they deserve the attention and study of cultivators and botanists alike. Of the genus Iris there are over a hundred known species, of which we have at least eighteen. These are equally divided between the region east of the great plains and that west of the Rocky Mountains. They may be grouped as follows : –
- A. – Eastern and arctic species.
- a Dwarf ; the only American species, excepting I. hexagona, which have either crest or beard.
- I. LACUSTRIS ; shores of Lakes Huron and Michigan.
- I. CRISTATA ; of the Alleghany Mountains.
- I. VERNA ; wooded hills and pine barrens, from Kentucky and Virginia to Alabama and North Carolina.
- b. The 1. tripetala group, having the inner petals veryshort.
- I. TRIPETALA ; pine-barren swamps of the southern Atlantic coast.
- I. HOOKERI ; on the lower Saint Lawrence River.
- I. SETOSA ; a Siberian species found in Alaska.
- c. The I. versicolor group.
- I. PRISMATICA (I. Virginica: the slender narrow-leaved species found mainly- near the Atlantic coast.
- I. HEXAGONA ; a tall crested species of the swamps along the southern Atlantic coast.
- I. CUPREA ; with dull yellow or brownish flowers, in swamps of the inner districts from Southern Illinois southward.
- I. VERSICOLOR ; the common broader-leaved northern species, from Minnesota to the Atlantic and southward. This species is at present made to include all the forms that cannot be placed in the preceding. Among those forms (often tall and large-fiowered) which occur in the Southern States, from Virginia westward and southward, there are some which are certainly distinct from the common Northern form, and perhaps from each other. A comparison cif living specimens is necessary, however, to a determination of their distinctive differences.
- B. Western species (not readily grouped by characters).
- I. MISSOURIENSIS; the only species of the interior, ranging from the Rocky Mountains to the Sierra Nevada, and from the British boundary to Arizona and Colorado.
- I. TENAX and I. TENUIS; a slender species of Oregon and Washington Territory.
- I. MACROSIPHON, I.' DOUGLASIANA, and I. BRACTEATA ; of the Coast Ranges of Northern California and Southern Oregon; often low and slender, the flowers in the first two having a long narrow tube.
- I. HARYWEGI; a low narrow-leaved species of the Northern Sierra Nevada.
- I. LONGIPETALA; a stout several-flowered species of the coast from San Francisco to Monterey.
Few of these Western species have been studied from the living plants and they cannot yet be said to be well known, for in dried and pressed specimens not only the delicate colors but many of the other characteristics of the flowers are lost beyond recovery. But Irises are generally of easy cultivation, adapting themselves readily to a diversity of treatment, and it is much to be hoped that our enterprising florists and lovers of flowers will try their skill upon these our native beauties. They can thus have the satisfaction not only of working a new field which promises rich floral rewards, but also of giving essential aid to the botanist in determining more accurately the characters and limits of the different species. It may be added that Prof. Michel Foster, of Oxford, England, is making a special study of the genus, and for that purpose is endeavor ing to obtain roots or seeds of all our forms from which to grow the plants in his own garden. Roots from any part of the country, and especially from the South and West, will be very acceptable and thankfully acknowledged, whether sent to him, or to the Botanic Garden, at Cambridge, Mass.
For More Information on Historic Irises visit the HIPS website at http://historiciris.org/