Sir Michael Foster on Ochroleuca and Monnieri (1883) Gardeners' Chronicle

This is part 3. in a six part article on "Hybridization" for other parts click on number part 1; part 2; part 4; part 5; part 6

3. Iris ochroleuca and Monnieri. — The handsome white and yellow I. ochroleuca is a very old inhabitant of our gardens, but until very recently its origin was unknown. Boissier, however, in his Flora Orientalis, gives it as growing at Smyrna and else where. Some three years ago Percy Zohrab, Esq., of the British Consulate, Smyrna, kindly sent me some roots of an Iris which he found growing wild in the marshy land near Ephesus, and which he said had white flowers. These roots have flowered this year with me, and prove to be the typical I. ochroleuca, but with flowers so large as to compare very well with the large form of ochroleuca known as I. gigantea.

I am surprised that I. Monnieri is not grown more than it appears to be. To my mind its large full golden-yellow flowers, freely produced, are most handsome, and the plant is very useful, flowering so late as it does, lasting even beyond I. Ksmpferi. To those who delight in massive floral decorations I would venture to recommend a sheaf of its golden flowers and dark green sword-like leaves placed in some large quaint vase. The name was given to it because it was found growing in the garden of a certain M. LeMonnier (so at least Redoute says), and its native country was long unknown. It appears, however, to be a native of Crete, having been found there by Sieber, and, according to Boissier, of Rhodes. My stock came from a plant kindly given me years ago by Sir Joseph Hooker from the Kew collection, and it certainly is the true plant, answering exactly both to the description and figure given by Redoute. The name Monnieri is often given I believe to a plant with lemon-coloured flowers. What this latter is I cannot say, as I have never possessed or flowered it ; but the true Monnieri is of a full rich golden-yellow, and differs from I. aurea from the Himalayas, not so much in colour as in the fact that in I. aurea the margins of the blades of the falls are plaited or crumpled, whereas in I. Monnieri they are even.

It is usually supposed that ochroleuca and Monnieri need to be grown in a swamp ; nevertheless on my dry chalk hill they find themselves quite at home, and flower freely as soon as they get established. Like all members of the spuria group, they are sturdy, accommodating plants, and will learn to live and thrive under the most diverse conditions. I say " members of the spuria group " for the relations of the two to the many forms of Iris which may be spoken of under the general name of I. spuria (including Gueldenstaeadti, etc.) are very close. And I have recently had a very curious additional proof of this.

Four years ago I sowed some seed of ochroleuca, which, as far as I knew, was not the result of any cross-fertilisation. I lost a good many of the seedlings in changing my residence, but saved some eight or nine. These flowered last year, and to my great surprise there was not a typical ochroleuca among them. They were all such plants as might best be described by saying that they were tall, large-flowered, pale blue, or slaty-coloured forms of spuria. At the same time I also sowed some seed of Iris Monnieri, which, as far as I could tell, was not hybridised, though I imagine I had put some strange pollen on some of the flowers. From this seed I have a very large number of seedlings, some of which flowered last year, and still more this year. Of those which have flowered one is a typical Monnieri, just like the parent, but the majority— one or two dozen are almost as typical ochroleuca. I say " almost " for the following reason. Besides colour and perhaps size, the chief difference between Monnieri and ochroleuca is that in the latter the claw of the fall is proportionately longer, and the crests of the stigma narrower and more pointed than in the former, in which the crests of the stigma are especially short and blunt.

Now, in these respects many of my seedlings were intermediate between the two. Some dozen other of the same batch of seedlings were very remarkable. They had not the large, dark green, thoroughly verdant spathe valves of Monnieri or ochroleuca, but the smaller, narrower spathe valves of spuria, with the tips and edges more or less scarious ; and the flowers were smaller, more like spuria, and of a very curious colour-a light lilac, mixed with yellow, or yellowish-brown— z.iT., with Uinis AjracA's,' such as are sometimes jokingly spoken of as " high art " colours. Their peculiar appearance suggested that they were hybrids between Monnieri and foetidissima (plants of the latter were growing not far off the parents) ; on the other hand they may have been mere sports. I have since crossed, or attempted to cross, Monnieri, both with foetidissima and with spuria and ochroleuca, and if all goes well, shall in a year or two have, perhaps, something more to say. At present I am very much inclined to think that both ochroleuca and Monnieri are mere varieties, perhaps even sports of I. spuria.

I may add that my curious coloured seedlings, though to my eyes mean and even ugly, have appeared particularly charming to some of my visitors, who, I suppose, have a more correct artistic appreciation than I have. Af. Foster.

continued here as part 4;

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-- Main.RPries - 2011-03-07
Topic revision: r3 - 29 Sep 2013, BobPries
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