Origin of the name (nomenclature) "Tall Bearded Iris"

We are so used to the name "Tall Bearded Iris" that we sometimes forget that it was not commonly used up until 1920. Prior to that most catalogs refered to "German Irises". This was understandable since Linneus gave the name Iris germanica to the largest and most prominant bearded species of his time. Unfortunately that species, we believe, did not originate in Germany but more likely Turkey. But for years, catalogs offered that class of larger bearded irises under the name German Irises. In some respects this is surprising since Michael Foster had proved that most of the "German" Irises were decended from the two species Iris pallida and Iris variegata. These were diploid Irises and Foster is also responsible for introducing 'Amas' a true Iris germanica which was tetraploid.

But German Irises remained the coomonly used name until World War 1. The horrows of that war made many reluctant to use the name "German" for their favorite flower and a small movement was underway by 1918 to change the name to "Liberty" Irises. Louise Beebe Wilder writes in The Garden Magazine; "----"

Even before the Iris Society was founded in January of 1920 some of the principal leaders had decided that a purely descriptive and non political name such as "Tall Bearded Iris" should be used for these plants. One of the first official acts of the New Society was to make "Tall Bearded Iris" the official name.


The new society went on to describe three official types of bearded irises. Dwarf (under 16 inches), Intermediate (based on bloom season) and Tall Bearded. Through the years these claassifications have changed. In some cases plants that were previously registered as TBs became Miniatyre Tall Beardeds (MTBs) or Border Bearded (BBs). The Iris Encyclopedia attempts to cross reference these changes.

Just as the common name Tall Bearded was changed the scientific name Iris germanica became Iris x germanica. Also Iris x altobarbata and Iris x conglomerata have been suggested but these have never quite caught on.

For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at http://www.historiciris.org/

-- BobPries - 02 Dec 2019
Topic revision: r1 - 02 Dec 2019, BobPries
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