1929, Iris Violipurpurea

Addisonia Volume 14, page 1, plate 449, 1929

IRIS VIOLIPURPUREA

Violet-purple Iris

Native of southern Louisiana. Family Iridaceae, Iris Family

Iris violipurpurea Small, sp. nov.
The extraordinary richness of the Iris flora of the Mississippi River delta was again emphasized by the receipt of live plants of the violet-purple iris in flower in March, 1927. They were sent in by Ruth and Arthur Svihla, who had learned of our interest in native North American irises. The original specimens came from a marsh near Chacahoula, Louisiana. The accompanying illustration was made from one of these plants, which have been growing at the Garden since their receipt in 1927.
The sepals of all the irises from the Mississippi Delta are striking subjects, owing to the varied arrangements, the blending, or the sharp contrasts in their color. Iris violipurpjirea belongs to the last category. The golden crest cuts abruptly into the violet-purple ground-color of the sepal-blade, there being no intermediate area of pale flecks or veins such as surround the crest in many species. In this characteristic the present species is related to Iris vinicolor and I. atrocyanea, its regional associates.
There are three groups with a long-bracted inflorescence in the Mississippi River basin one typified by Iris fulva, one by I. foliosa, and still another by the present species and its associates in structure. These groups are all quite distinct. The rigors of the ice age seem to have exterminated the ancestors and the connecting links between these groups, which grew in more northern regions. Thus driven southward by the slowly advancing cold and also by the floods that doubtless deluged the Mississippi basin, a few survivors found a last refuge in the relatively stable conditions in the delta of the Mississippi. The plants grow in the full sunlight in prairie-like places, on the low or middle grounds. They usually occur in large colonies unassociated with any other iris, in a thin turf of grass.
The plants sent to the Garden by Mr. and Mrs. Svihla survived the subsequent winter in the cold-frames, and a large colony collected in the late spring of 1927 by Charles A. Mosier and the writer were unharmed by the cold weather, although in the open with but little protection, and flowered profusely in several different shades of color during June, 1928.

The violet-purple iris has a very stout fleshy branching rootstock. The leaves are often five together at the base of the flower-stalk. The blades are linear-ensiform, slightly glaucescent, mostly three-quarters of an inch to an inch and a quarter wide. The flower-stalk is erect, two and a half to three feet tall, usually with one or two flower-bearing nodes below the terminal, the internodes with a rather sharp angle below the base of the foliaceous bracts. The terminal involucre is erect, of usually two or three bracts, the outer bract exceeding the flower, slenderly attenuate above the tight-fitting basal portion, keeled on the back, scarious on the edges, the inner (second) bract about equalling the base of the perianth, with broad scarious margins. The flowers are usually two together at the top of the stalk, and single or sometimes two in the axils of the leaf-like bracts below it. The primary terminal flower has a slender-columnar pedicel, slightly three-angled. The hypanthium covering the ovary is sharply six-angled, and together with the pedicel tightly surrounded by the involucre, bright-green. The flower-tube is slightly dilated upward, nearly or quite as long as the ovary, six-angled, the angles paired. The three sepals are remate, three and a half to four and a quarter inches long, arching. The claw is shorter than the blade, rather broad, but slightly narrowed near the base; without, green and green-striate; within, green and magenta-striate, with the heavy striae parallel to the greenish-yellow crest-like finely papillose midridge, the finer striae curving out to the edges. The blade is elliptic or ovate-elliptic, longer than the claw; without, violet-purple and obscurely dark-striate; within, violet-purple, except the yellow or golden crest in the base, often darker colored* just in front of the crest, evidently dark-striate, undulate, usually notched at the apex. The three petals are spatulate, often rather broadly so, slightly shorter than the sepals. The claw is slender; without, with greenish margins and often median magenta st nations; within, yellow or greenish-yellow at the very base, otherwise violet-purple. The blade is much longer than the claw, violet-purple without and within, but usually, slightly paler than the sepal-blade, notched at the apex. The three stamens are nearly or quite an inch and a half long. The filaments are subulate, yellow. The anthers are nearly white, longer than the filaments, sagittate at the base. The style-appendages are half-ovate, one half to three-quarters of an inch long, irregularly crenate or serrate-crenate and erose, magenta. The stigma is two-lobed. The capsule is oval or ovoid-oval, about three inches long, tinged deep-green and glaucescent, obscurely six-sided or bluntly six-angled, the faces slightly grooved, the three primary angles or lobes flattened, more sharply grooved than the faces, the capsule thus obscurely six-lobed. The seeds a half inch in diameter, half-orbicular, irregularly thickened, light-brown, 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: r3 - 23 Jul 2016, af.83
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