■ (SPEC) Iris ensata Thun.

1794, Botanical author Thunberg

Iris ensata Thunberg (Carl Peter Thunberg, 1794, China and Japan); Section Limniris; height 24-36" (60-90 cm); Purple or reddish purple; Iris ensata Thunberg in Transactions of the Linnaean Society ii (1794) 328;

See below:
20170621 104327 JAP Iris ensata Variegata (2).jpg20170708 185205 JI Variegata (2).jpgDK-I-ENSATA.jpgDL-I-ENSATA -CLUMPS.jpgensata01.JPGensata02.jpgensata03.jpgensata edited-1.jpgEnsataFrom Braaten.jpgensataspeciesflower.jpgensataspeciesplant edited-1.jpgensatavariegata01.jpgIris ensata KWW 2.jpgIris ensata KWW 3.jpgIris ensata spontanea KWW 1.JPGkaempferi.jpgRoseQueen JI.jpgRussian Ensata Flower cropped.jpgRussian I ensata.jpgSIGNA 09LV057 ensata ex Beijing enlarged.jpg


Synonym Iris kaempferi. Sieb in. ex Lemaire L’ Illustration horticole. 5: tab. 157. 1858
Dykes, The Genus Iris 76. 1913,

Rootstock , a fairly stout, short-creeping rhizome.
Leaves , ensiform, 2-2½ ft. by ½-1 in., with a distinct "midrib" throughout the whole length.
Stem , from 16 in. to over 2 feet in height, bearing 1-3 reduced leaves and usually a lateral branch, besides the terminal head of two flowers.
Spathe valves , 3 in. long, narrow, irregularly covered with minute papillae, visible in the dried state.
Pedicels , ½-1}-2 in., of varying length in the different flowers and at different stages of growth.
Ovary , rounded trigonal, with six grooves.
Tube , ½-¾ in. round, light green, hardly at all funnel-shaped.
Falls . The narrow oblong haft is about an inch long and yellow in the centre, with a raised ridge, which runs on to the blade, where it becomes minutely pubescent. The sides of the haft and the rest of the oval or obovate blade are of an intense red purple, 3 in. long.
Standards , narrow oblanceolate, about two-thirds the length of the falls, of the same red-purple colour.
Styles , deep violet, much rounded.
Crests , small, subquadrate, erect, so that the tips are almost on a level with the top of the standards.
Stigma , entire, broad, with irregularly dentate edge.
Filaments , purple, short.
Anthers , pale yellow, more or less flushed with mauve, twice as long as the filaments.
Pollen , orange.
Capsule, short, not more than an inch in length, tapering at either end and obtusely beaked, not sharply pointed. The sides are concave and the angles grooved (see Fig. 9, p. 76).
Seeds , flat, circular, or nearly circular, discs.


This Iris has long been confused with I. laevigata, and this confusion is perhaps hardly surprising in view of the fact that the two species apparently grow in proximity the one to the other in the marshes on the banks of the river Amur in Manchuria, and also in Japan. They may however be easily distinguished by certain constant features. The most obvious is that the leaves of I. Kaempferi have a conspicuous central rib, while in those of I. laevigata this is almost entirely absent, though a very slight line is sometimes visible near the tip. The flowers are wholly different in colour, those of I. Kaempferi being always reddish purple, while the true I. laevigata has the most magnificent blue flowers of any known Iris. The capsules and seeds are also very different (cf. Fig. 8, p. 74, and Fig. 9, p. 76).

In making I. Kaempferi a variety of I. laevigata, Maximowicz (I.e.) clearly pointed out one of the most obvious differences between the two plants, for he describes it as foliis angustis elevato-nervosis costa media distincta and I. laevigata as foliis latis laevibus costa media obsoleta. With further knowledge of the capsules and seeds and of the habit and appearance of the growing plants, it seems impossible not to separate them into two distinct species.

The origin of the many Japanese garden forms of this Iris has never been disclosed. With their usual inclination towards distortion and the abnormal, the Japanese seem to have aimed at increase in the size of the falls and decrease in the standards. It seems not impossible that in the early stages I. Kaempferi may with this end in view have been crossed with I. setosa, which is also a native of Japan, and in which the standards are reduced to mere bristles, while the falls are often very large. I cannot bring any evidence in support of this suggestion except its obvious plausibility, and it must be admitted that among large numbers of seedlings of Japanese forms of I. Kaempferi, no examples of, or approaches to, I. setosa have been known to appear.

There is in the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley an old shallow ditch running through what was originally a field. In this position numbers of imported Japanese Irises were planted by the late G. F. Wilson, but now the majority of them seem to have died out and the seedlings that have sown themselves and sprung up are largely approximations to the type and to the white form of it.

In Japan these hybrids are grown in special gardens, which can be flooded to the depth of a few inches in summer and kept comparatively dry in winter. During the winter months when growth is inactive, that is from November to February, liberal applications of strong liquid manure are given every two or three weeks. While growth is active, water and not manure must be provided. Here in England the imported plants rarely do well without similar treatment, unless the natural soil is unusually tenacious and rich. Experience both of imported Japanese plants and of home-raised seedlings of the type has shown that the latter are much less exacting in their requirements than the former, and that they may be readily grown and flowered in any fairly rich garden soil. A certain degree of moisture during the growing season is a necessity if the plants are to develop to their proper size.

When transplantation is necessary, it should be carried out soon after the flowering season, by preference late in August or at any rate early in September. If the operation cannot be performed then, it should be postponed until growth is beginning again in March.

Among the Japanese garden forms many double flowered plants are to be found in which the standards and even the style branches seem to have been metamorphosed into falls. This is the type of Iris that is so commonly seen in Japanese decorative art, though it can scarcely be maintained that these monstrosities are as graceful as the typical single-flowered forms. Gorgeous colour they doubtless possess in a wider range, perhaps, than almost any other Iris, but the colours are not pure, and the effect is in some cases frankly ugly and displeasing to our western taste.
The Japanese Iris (Hana-shobu) according to Koidzumi (1925), should be correctly known as Iris ensata of Thunberg. For many years it has appeared in bulletins and catalogs as Iris kaempferi. Iris kaempferi sometimes was listed as the same as Iris laevigata but later was seen as distinct from that species. Iris ensata often appears quite similar in the single native forms to Iris laevigata. Maekawa (1967) pointed out that if a leaf of ensata is held to the light one can easily see the distinct lateral vein as a white or silver line. There is one such vein on their secondary dorsal side and two on the counter side, I. laevigata has no such dorsiventrality in its leaves.

Synonyms; Kaempferi var. spontanea, Makino; laevigata var. Kaempferi; pseudacorus, Regel; Maachi, Maxim.; tectorum Somoku Dzusetsu.
Iris ensata var. ensata

Chromosome numbers: -2n=24, Simonet, 1928, 2n=24, Kazoa, 1928; 2n=24, Sokolovskaya, 1966; 2n=24, Sok. & Prob., 1985; 2n= 24, Yabuya 1985; 2n=24 Starodubtsev & Mironova, 1990. See Japanese Iris for modern hybrids;

Iris ensata species cultivars: 'Edo' cultivars, 'Enkaishu', 'Ghost', 'Glebe Ghost', 'Hanashobu', 'Higo' cultivars, 'Ise' cultivars, 'Joan Trevithick', 'Ko Reijin', 'Mifuchi No Nami', 'Nagai cultivars', 'Nagai Jyamonegasa', 'Rose Queen', 'Silverband', 'Silverstripe', 'Spontanea', 'Sun In Splendour', 'Ton Ton Bana', 'Tsumabeni', 'Tsumugi Otome', Iris ensata variegata.

Iris ensata by advanced Iris ensata : 'Altay', 'Derzu Uzala', 'Diadia Stopa', 'Shamakhanskaya Tsaritsa', 'Vasili Alfiorov'.

Iris ensata crosses* Iris ensata X Iris laevigata: 'Aureafolia'.
  • Iris ensata X Siberian Iris: 'Adrenaline Rush', 'Common Denominator', 'Pagliacci'.
  • Iris ensata X Iris xrobusta: 'Rodnaya Ukraina'.
  • Iris pseudacorus X Iris ensata: 'Aichi-No-Kagayaki', 'Chance Beauty', 'Eurasia-Blood', 'Eurasia Bride', 'Eurasia-Love', 'Fair Chance', 'Hagi-no-tsuki', 'Hanazukiyo', 'Hatsuho', 'Kikoshi', 'Kikumakura', 'Kimboshi', 'Kinkei', 'Kinshien', 'Kouryu', 'Midori-ba-kogabe', 'Minori-no-aki', 'Okan', 'Pixie Won', 'Rakujitsu', 'Ryugan', 'Ryujin', 'Sayobotaru', 'Sayo-No-Tsuki', 'Shinrinyoku', 'Shirabyoshi', 'Tsukiyono'.
  • Iris versicolor X Iris ensata [These crosses refered to as 'Versata']: 'Bee Flamenco', 'Francis Cabot', 'Go Go Boy', 'Joliette', 'Lavender Bleach', 'Oriental Dawn', 'Oriental Touch', 'Purple Polka', 'Purplet Cha-Cha', 'Red Raspa', 'Smooth Transition', 'Strange Butterfly', 'Styled Modesty', 'Summer Review', 'Sweet Tango', 'Tremblant Spirit', 'Veined Banner', 'Violet Minuet', 'White Bleach'.
  • (Iris versicolor x Iris ensata) X Iris ensata [this cross called 'Reensata']: 'Akira Horinaka', 'Dyson Moore', 'Marie Chuard', 'Mirabel Glow'.
  • (Iris versicolor x Iris ensata) X Iris versicolor: 'Belle Promesse', 'Enfant Prodige', 'Mystery Setosa'.
  • ((Iris versicolor x Iris ensata) x sibling) X Iris ensata: 'George Rodionenko'.
  • ((Iris versicolor x Iris ensata) x Iris versicolor) X Iris ensata: 'Night Flash'.
  • (('Versata' x Iris versicolor) x self) X Iris ensata: 'Top Pick', 'Golden Queen'.

¼ Iris ensata crosses: 'Late Call', 'Laurentian Sunset', 'Nouvel Age', 'Quebelle', 'Reversata', 'Splendid Companion', 'Strange Fantasy', 'Tenue Royale', 'Welcome Intruder'.

20170621 104327 JAP Iris ensata Variegata (2).jpg20170708 185205 JI Variegata (2).jpgDK-I-ENSATA.jpgDL-I-ENSATA -CLUMPS.jpgensata01.JPGensata02.jpgensata03.jpgensata edited-1.jpgEnsataFrom Braaten.jpgensataspeciesflower.jpgensataspeciesplant edited-1.jpgensatavariegata01.jpgIris ensata KWW 2.jpgIris ensata KWW 3.jpgIris ensata spontanea KWW 1.JPGkaempferi.jpgRoseQueen JI.jpgRussian Ensata Flower cropped.jpgRussian I ensata.jpgSIGNA 09LV057 ensata ex Beijing enlarged.jpg

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-- Main.RPries - 2009-12-01
  • I. ensata 'Variegata' bloomed at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, approximately, June 21 - July 3, in 2017. It had reached a height of about 31", in 2017, but many of the other Japanese Iris varieties, at the Arboretum, were short this year. -- HollyJohnson2017-04-01 - 04 Aug 2017
Topic attachments
ISorted ascending Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
20170621_104327 JAP Iris ensata Variegata (2).jpgjpg 20170621_104327 JAP Iris ensata Variegata (2).jpg manage 939 K 04 Aug 2017 - 19:06 HollyJohnson2017-04-01 A single bud of I. ensata Variegata. Photo taken by Holly Johnson at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 6/21/2017.
20170708_185205 JI Variegata (2).jpgjpg 20170708_185205 JI Variegata (2).jpg manage 862 K 04 Aug 2017 - 19:10 HollyJohnson2017-04-01 Foliage of I. ensata Variegata. Photo taken by Holly Johnson at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum July 8, 2017.
DK-I-ENSATA.jpgjpg DK-I-ENSATA.jpg manage 26 K 17 Sep 2010 - 02:11 UnknownUser Lorena Reid photo
DL-I-ENSATA_-CLUMPS.jpgjpg DL-I-ENSATA_-CLUMPS.jpg manage 39 K 17 Sep 2010 - 02:13 UnknownUser Lorena Reid photo
EnsataFrom_Braaten.jpgjpg EnsataFrom_Braaten.jpg manage 834 K 16 Jun 2016 - 19:55 BobPries Kathy Braaten photo
Iris_ensata_KWW_2.jpgjpg Iris_ensata_KWW_2.jpg manage 64 K 28 Feb 2015 - 03:55 Main.KWalker Photo by Ken Walker; from SIGNA seed 10LV122, Whitney cream signal selection, selo illinka, ex Hana Lake, Russia ex Alexeeva #10
Iris_ensata_KWW_3.jpgjpg Iris_ensata_KWW_3.jpg manage 63 K 28 Feb 2015 - 03:58 Main.KWalker Photo by Ken Walker; from SIGNA seed 06N149, coll. Korea
Iris_ensata_spontanea_KWW_1.JPGJPG Iris_ensata_spontanea_KWW_1.JPG manage 63 K 28 Feb 2015 - 04:02 Main.KWalker Photo by Ken Walker; var. spontanea from SIGNA seeds 98N224
RoseQueen_JI.jpgjpg RoseQueen_JI.jpg manage 47 K 16 Jan 2010 - 19:31 Main.shanatse I. ensata 'Rose Queen'
Russian_Ensata_Flower_cropped.jpgjpg Russian_Ensata_Flower_cropped.jpg manage 109 K 10 Dec 2013 - 19:06 BobPries Pries photo
Russian_I_ensata.jpgjpg Russian_I_ensata.jpg manage 160 K 10 Dec 2013 - 19:07 BobPries Pries photo
SIGNA_09LV057_ensata_ex_Beijing_enlarged.jpgjpg SIGNA_09LV057_ensata_ex_Beijing_enlarged.jpg manage 56 K 13 Jan 2011 - 13:20 UnknownUser Pries photo
ensata01.JPGJPG ensata01.JPG manage 77 K 30 Apr 2014 - 17:01 Main.TLaurin Photo by Ensata Gardens
ensata02.jpgjpg ensata02.jpg manage 291 K 28 Jun 2017 - 22:14 Main.TLaurin Iris ensata Variegata. Photo by Holly Johnson-Taken at MN Landscape Arboretum
ensata03.jpgjpg ensata03.jpg manage 163 K 28 Jun 2017 - 22:15 Main.TLaurin Iris ensata Variegata. Photo by Holly Johnson-Taken at MN Landscape Arboretum
ensata_edited-1.jpgjpg ensata_edited-1.jpg manage 30 K 01 Dec 2009 - 21:24 UnknownUser Plate from Dykes' Genus Iris
ensataspeciesflower.jpgjpg ensataspeciesflower.jpg manage 36 K 20 Sep 2010 - 16:40 UnknownUser Dennis Hager photo
ensataspeciesplant_edited-1.jpgjpg ensataspeciesplant_edited-1.jpg manage 71 K 20 Sep 2010 - 16:42 UnknownUser Dennis Hager photo
ensatavariegata01.jpgjpg ensatavariegata01.jpg manage 54 K 09 Oct 2014 - 17:03 Main.TLaurin Photo by Rowden Gardens-England
kaempferi.jpgjpg kaempferi.jpg manage 98 K 15 Jul 2016 - 18:51 BobPries IllustrationHorticole
Topic revision: r22 - 04 Aug 2017, HollyJohnson2017-04-01
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