1929, Iris Chrysophoenicia

Addisonia volume 14, page 7, plate 452, 1929

IRIS CHRYSOPHOENICIA

Gold and Purple Iris

Native of southern Louisiana

Family Iridaceae, Iris Family

This iris was discovered on a day of penance and reward. We were up before daylight and at the ferry landing about dawn, ready to cross Lake Pontchartrain, only to learn that the ferry engine had broken down. There we were compelled to fight mosquitoes until the engine of the ferry boat was repaired. That was penance. But once we reached the southern side of the lake, the rewards began to appear. The first was a new palm tree — Sabal Deeringiana.

Farther in towards New Orleans, many beautiful irises came into view in the swamps. Various hues of red, white, and blue were prominent and other colors were in evidence. Three distinct groups of the genus proved to be there represented, and new species with flowers of shades of colors never before recorded in American irises were more numerous than imagination would ever have suggested. One of the reds — Iris vinicolor — has already been described in Addisonia 1 .

The present species has a larger flower than Iris vinicolor and also more intense coloration, but the ancestry of both is equally obscure. The general coloration and the six-angled capsule suggest a common origin of the two; but from what ancient plant reservoir or through what channels they entered the geologically young Coastal Plain and particularly the very recently formed lower delta of the Mississippi River is a mystery.

Iris chrysophoenicia was discovered then in the swamps between Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans, Louisiana by Dr. Edgar T. Wherry and the writer on April 10th, 1925. The Specimens from which the accompanying illustration was made were collected in the same region by Charles A. Mosier and the writer on April 8th, 1927. These specimens grown at The New York Botanical Garden flowered in June 1928. They are hardy in cold-frames, although thoroughly frozen in winter, as well as in the open plantations with but little protection.

In its natural geographic area Iris chrysophoenicia grows in ditches both in the open and in swamps around the edges of thickets. In the open it often forms dense colonies, while in partial shade its development is more sparse. The rootstocks are usually copiously intermixed with the roots of grasses and sedges and also those of shrubs and herbaceous plants about the thickets. The type specimen is in the herbarium of The New York Botanical Garden.

The gold and purple iris has a stout branching fleshy elongate rootstock. The leaves are erect, usually three or four together at the base of the flower stalk. The blades are linear-attenuate, mostly three-quarters of an inch to an inch wide, deep-green, but more or less glaucescent especially toward the base. The flower-stalk is erect, usually two and a half to three feet tall, rather slender, with one or two flower-bearing nodes below the terminal, glaucescent, the internodes rather sharply angled below the bases of the foliaceous bracts. The involucre is of two main bracts, the outer one elongate, exceeding the flower, the inner (second) bract usually with the tip reaching to the lower part of the perianth, narrowly scarious-margined, but otherwise green to the tip. The flowers are single or two together at the top of the stalk, single in the axils of the foliaceous bracts below the tip. The primary terminal flower has a pedicel one-half to three-quarters of an inch long. The hypanthium surrounding the ovary is sharply six-angled, bright-green, longer than the pedicel, which together with the hypanthium is more or less exposed to view between the bracts of the involucre. The flower-tube is columnar-prismatic, sharply six-angled, longer than the ovary in anthesis, shining. The three sepals are remate, three to three and a half inches long. The claw is much shorter than the blade, very broad, somewhat narrowed to the base; without, greenish and flatly several-ridged, the green extending halfway up into the blade ; within, greenish-yellow, with a prominent midrib and several parallel ridges and green veins on both sides. The blade is oval, much longer than the claw; without, greenish and purplish-lined near the base, dull purple above ; within, with the greenish-yellow of the claw extending up into about the lower fourth as a yellow blotch divided by the yellow or golden crest which extends up about half-way to the tip, the yellow prolonged into the adjacent violet-purple as lines and flecks, the rest of the blade dark violet -purple (plum-color), obscurely veined with black. The three petals are broadly spatulate, nearly as long as the sepals. The claw is cuneate; without, dark and light veined; within, involute-channeled, green, lined with magenta. The blade is much longer than the claw ; without, dull violet and finely dark-lined ; within, slightly paler than the sepal-blade, dark veined, often notched at the apex and slightly undulate on the margins. The three stamens are about an inch and a third long. The style appendages are half-ovate, one-half to three-quarters of an inch long, red-purple and veined with green, finely and unevenly toothed. The stigma is yellow, two lobed. The capsule is nodding, ovoid, or ellipsoid-ovoid, two and a half to three and a half inches long, bright-green, with six rather narrow but prominent ridges, thick- walled. The seeds are numerous, in one row in each capsule-cavity, about a half inch in diameter, suborbicular and lozenge-shaped, often very thick, brown, corky- walled.

John K. Small.



i Addisonia 12: 1. pi. 385. 1927.

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

-- BobPries - 2014-12-10
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