1929, Iris Albispiritis

Addisonia page 3, plate 450

IRIS ALBISPIRITUS

Ghost Iris

Native of southern peninsular Florida

Family Iridaceae, Iris Family

Iris . AIbospiritis Small, sp. nova

A white-flowered iris, considering: the vast multitudes of colored ones, is really a rarity in eastern North America. Of course, we actually know many albinos and should expect them in all the colored-flowered species. Accordingly, when repeated reports of a white iris in the ponds and on the prairies along and near the Caloosahatchee east of Fort Myers reached the writer, it was provisionally considered that they referred to albino plants of the prairie-iris (Iris savannarum') which is the typical species of the prairie region thereabouts, its type locality being about twelve miles up the Caloosahatchee from Fort Myers. The irises of the Caloosahatchee region are early bloomers and opportunity to study them in the field while in flower, was never found. So the problem was attacked by a different method. Walter M. Buswell, naturalist of Fort Myers definitely located several colonies in the early spring of 1927 on the prairies on both sides of the Caloosahatchee. Later that year he visited these stations and secured a good supply of rootstocks for planting at The New York Botanical Garden and also specimens of the fruits. So far there was nothing to indicate that these colonies were not albinos of Iris savannarum. The plants grow in a usually dense turf of grasses and sedges among which are scattered, in season, various lowland primroses, mints, figworts, and composites.

To our great delight six or eight specimens among the several dozen set out in the plantations at the Garden in the spring, flowered the following October, permitting the accompanying illustration to be made. And to our surprise, the flowers showed marked differences from those of Iris savannarum, for the blades of the sepals and petals are crisped and finely many toothed, the style-branches are often toothed along the edges, and the style-appendages are more sharply cut. These characters, curiously enough, indicate a relationship to the white irises of the lower Mississippi Delta, although the capsule (pod) shows affinities with I. savannarum; the biological origin of the new species is just as hidden as that of the latter. Unless it originated hi situ, it must have migrated from further north, but it has left no indication of its trail. Its general floral characters justify the assumption that its ancestors and those of Iris hexagona had a common origin in the ancient highlands. The pods confirm this view, those of Iris hexagona being sharply six-angled, while those of I. Albispiritus are six-ribbed — merely opposite extremes of the same fundamental structure of the organ.

Other white-flowered irises of the Florida peninsula now assumed to be albinos of other species, invite further study. The type specimen of Iris Albispiritus is in the herbarium of The New York Botanical Garden.

The ghost-iris has stout, often much-branched fleshy root-stocks. The leaves are erect, two to three feet long, usually 3-5 together at the base of a flower-stalk, the blades are narrowly linear, usually one-half to three quarters of an inch wide, bright-green. The flower-stalk is erect, one and a half to four feet tall, usually two to three feet tall, with one flower-bearing node below the terminal or sometimes with two or three, the internodes slightly flattened, the side below the foliaceous bracts angled. The terminal involucre is erect, of two main bracts, the outer bract with a tightly involute base and a slender tip which exceeds the flower, the keel sharp, the edges slightly scarious, the inner (second) bract with broad scarious translucent margins. The primary terminal flower has a slender-cylindric pedicel one and a half to two inches long. The hypanthium surrounding the ovary, is sharply six-angled, light-green, shorter than the pedicel, together with the pedicel tightly enveloped in the involucre. The three sepals are remate, four to five inches long. The claw is shorter than the blade, very broad, somewhat narrower near the base ; without, pale-green and faintly striate; within, yellow-green and plainly green striate on both sides of the lemon-yellow mid-ridge. The blade is elliptic or elliptic-ovate, longer than the claw ; without, mainly white and sometimes tinged with green and with green lines at the base ; within, white and faintly veined with greenish branching lines, with a yellow papillose, sometimes double crest at the base, crisped and unevenly crenate. The three petals are spatulate, three and a half to four inches long. The claw is cuneate, about as long as the blade, channeled ; without, pale-green except the narrow scarious margins ; within, greenish-white with several parallel green lines and ridges. The blade is narrowly elliptic, or ovate-elliptic ; without, pale greenish-white ; within, white, except the few green veins near the base, crenulate, and often crisped-undulate. The style-appendages are half-ovate to half-elliptic, one half to three-quarters of an inch long, laciniate and often somewhat fimbriate on the outer side. The stigma is two-lobed, pale-green or whitish. The capsule is drooping, ellipsoid, two and a quarter to three and a half inches long, six-ridged. The seeds are numerous, in one row in some cavities, sub-orbicular or lozenge-shaped ; in two rows in other cavities and irregularly half-orbicular, all about a half inch in diameter, light-brown, irregularly thickened, corky- walled.

John K. Small.

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

-- BobPries - 2014-12-09
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Topic revision: r2 - 10 Dec 2014, BobPries
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