1910, Three New Chinese Irises; Iris Wilsonii, Iris Forrestii, and Iris Bulleyana

Gardeners' Chronicle p. 418, June 25, 1910



The richness of the Chinese flora is indeed extraordinary, and, thanks to the enterprise of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Forrest, our gardens are rapidly being enriched by some of its treasures.

For some years I have been hoping that sooner or later we should obtain a yellow-flowered relative of Iris sibirica, for there appears to be considerable evidence that the blue-purple colouring-matter of many Irises is of very nearly the same composition as the yellow of others. I am told, and I can well believe, that the chemical question involved is extremely delicate and complicated, but its solution might be of great value.

In the Kew Bulletin for 1907, p. 321, Mr. C. H. Wright described Iris Wilsonii from specimens sent to him by Messrs. Veitch, of Chelsea. Last year this firm very kindly allowed me to have a plant of this Iris, which on June 7 began to bloom freely. By a lucky chance another Chinese Iris, collected by Mr. Forrest, and sent to me by Mr. A. K. Bulley, also came into flower on the same day, and this plant I propose to name I. Forrestii. Both these Irises have yellow flowers, and they are both closely related to 1. sibirica and I. Clarkei. They are distinguished, however, by the following characteristics. In I. Wilsonii the flowers are borne on long pedicels, as in the western forms of I. sibirica ; in I. Forrestii the pedicels do not exceed an inch in length. In the former the styles are very narrow and the standards spreading, as in I. Clarkei, with the edges of the blade curiously crimped; while in the latter the styles are broader than the haft of the falls, and the standards almost erect with smooth blades. The foliage also of the two plants is quite distinct, that of I. Wilsonii resembling the growth of the Oriental forms of I. sibirica, while the leaves of I. Forrestii are narrow and grassy, and, more-over, have the polished upper surface and glaucous under-surface, which are so marked features of I. Clarkei. Moreover, I. Wilsonii grows to twice the height of I. Forrestii.


The hollow stems are about 2 feet in length, barely overtopping the leaves, bearing a reduced leaf, usually below the centre, and a two-flowered spathe, above the pointed green valves of which the flowers rise on solid pedicels 2 to 4 inches long. The ovary is small, trigonal, dark green, with a shiny surface, and the tube of the usual sibirica shape, of about the same length as the ovary.

The falls have a broad haft much veined with red-brown on a bright yellow ground. This colouring extends in a semi-circular patch on to the oblong blade, which then becomes pale yellow, with faint purplish veins. The standards, which are poised at an angle of 45°, have a very narrow, deeply channelled haft as long as the much crimped blade, the colour of which is pale yellow, with faint purplish markings. The narrow styles are bright yellow, and the crests small, quadrate and overlapping.


The leaves are grassy, linear, about 10 to 12 inches long by i inch broad, with a smooth polished upper and glaucous under surface. The numerous stems are about 12 inches in height, bearing one or two reduced leaves below the center and a single head of one to two flowers; they are hollow, but owing to the thickness of the walls, the central space is much smaller than in its allies. The spathe valves are green, pointed, keeled, 2 to 3 inches long, containing one to two flowers on solid pedicels about 1 to 1^ inch long. The ovary is pale green, trigonal with markedly hollow sides, slightly longer than the broad, many-sided tube.

The falls have a short (1 inch) horizontal haft, bearing broken veins of dark red or purple-brown on a yellow ground. This colouring projects, as in I. Wilsonii, in a half circle on to the oblong blade (li inch long by 1 inch broad), which is separated from the haft by a sharp constriction. The blade droops perpendicularly and is of a pale lemon-yellow, sometimes slightly marked with faint purplish veins. The standards are erect, with channelled haft and oblanceolate, pale yellow blade. The styles are also pale yellow, somewhat discoloured with purple, broader than the hafts of the falls, much arched and bringing the broadly triangular stigma close down on to them. The crests are small quadrate and over-lapping.

• Iris Forrestii sp. n. — Rhizoma gracile ; folia linearia, subpedalia, 1/4 poll, lata, supra nitida, infra Rlaticescentia; caulis pedalis, foliosus, fistulosus; spatha 1-2 flora, valvis viridibus, acutis, 2-3 poll, longis ; pedicdlus 1-1 1/2 longus; ovarium trigonum ; tubus latus, 1/2 poll, longus; segmenta omnia pallida lutea; exteriora depressa, oblongo-ciineata, ungue castaneo-venosa; interiora erecta oblongo-lanceolata, ungue canaliculate; styli rami saturatius lutei; cristis quadratis, sese tegentibus.


The third new Chinese species, to which I propose to give the above name, supplies a link between Iris sibirica and Iris Clarkei, for it has the hollow stem of I. sibirica, although in foliage and growth it is very similar to I. Clarkei.

The plant that I received from Mr. Bulley last autumn has not flowered, but he has very kindly sent me a flowering specimen. However, as the plant was uprooted some days before the 'bud opened, I hesitate to give its full description, and will merely describe it provisionally as an ally of I. Clarkei, with flowers of which the standards are blue-purple and the falls mottled with the same colour on a creamy ground.

As regards habitat, I. Wilsonii was found by Wilson at Fang, in the province of Hupeh, in Western China; I. Forrestii, in open mountain meadows on the eastern flank of the Lichiang Range in North-west Yunnan. At present I am unable to state the precise locality in which I. Bulleyana was collected, although, if my recollection is right, it was in Yunnan. ---W. R. Dykes, Charterhouse, Godalming.

t Iris Bulleyana. sp. n. I. clarkei simillima sed caule fistuloso facile distingnenda. — Rhizoma gracile, late repens: folia ensiformia supra nitida, infra glaucescentia; caulis subpedalis, fistulosus; spatha biflorae, valvis viridibus acutis.

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

-- BobPries - 2014-11-19
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