(1909) Changing Color; Iris Strausii; Oncocyclus Cold Storage; by Dykes

Gardeners' Chronicle p.391, June 19, 1909



For some time past I have been inclined to suspect that Iris flowers vary from year to year on the same plants, even when the latter remain undisturbed in the same spot. Last year I made careful notes of some dwarf yellow seedlings, with a view to eliminating muddy colours and keeping only the purest. -This year the notes do not correspond in the least, and those plants which seemed the best last year have this year only produced flowers in which purple streaks occur. I. Talischii, too, was last year distinctly streaked with purple ; but this year no purple appeared in the falls.

More striking still is the variation of the colour of the beards of Irises vaga and Leichtlinii. In 1907, I carefully labelled and separated all blue beards (vaga) from yellow beards (Leichtlinii). In 1908, in the two batches, there was not a single yellow beard among 50 or 60 flowers. Last autumn the plants were left undisturbed, and this year the two batches produced blue and yellow beards respectively, as I arranged them in the autumn of 1907!

Can anyone suggest an explanation?


I should like to draw attention to a good example of this plant, which I received from Mr.W. Muller, of Nocera Inferiore, Italy, with a note to the effect that it was collected in Persia, on the borders of Beluchistan. The first flower opened on April 22, and agreed with the description given in Mr. Lynch's Booh of the Iris, except that the head consisted of three flowers within the same outer spathe valves.

Curiously enough, within a few days, a seedling bloomed for the first time and was identical with this Persian I. Straussii. It was a plant that I raised from seed of a yellow Iris offered in the trade about four years ago as I. suaveolens. Among a dozen plants, four came clear yellow and three others had the curious dull purple of I. Straussii. Of these latter, two had beards, in which the yellow-white hairs of the beard were not tipped with blue, as in I. Straussii.

All these plants agree in having standards that are noticeably larger than the falls and which project beyond the falls in the unopened bud. The texture of the segments is extremely delicate in all cases, quite unlike that of the European pumila or chamaeiris, and it would seem that we have in I. Straussii a dwarf Persian Iris of varying colour which corresponds to the South European chamseiris and olbiensis with their various colour forms. This Persian Iris is also remarkable in that the base of the haft of the standards often, but not always even on the same plant, bears a few hairs of the same colour as the beard, a phenomenon which is also frequent among the Oncocyclus Irises, and occurs, moreover, in I. florentina.


Owing to the folly of a gardener, who during last August copiously watered my cold-stored Oncocyclus plants because he thought " they looked rather dry," I was not able to lift and store the rhizomes for a second winter. However, I stored another batch of newly-imported rhizomes until the middle of February. Then for a week or two they lay in a frame in boxes of cocoanut fibre and sand — an excellent medium for encouraging root growth in dry or shriveled plants. They soon began to send out roots, and I planted them early in March in a sheltered spot in sandy soil well enriched with old cow manure and leaf-mould. Throughout April and May they were kept well watered, and I have had five flowers of I. lupina and I. Elisabethae. Four flowers of I. Haynei are now open, and I. Lortetii and I. Bismarckiana are in bud. The plants, too, are making vigorous growth, and will, I hope, provide good rhizomes for storing again in August. W. E. Dykes, Charterhouse,


For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at

-- BobPries - 2014-07-22
Topic revision: r1 - 22 Jul 2014, BobPries
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