|Simonet ex P. Fournier in Quartre Fl. de France 191. 1935.|
|Iris perrieri Simonet ex N.Service, Plantsman, n.s., 2: 91 (2003).|
|2016 Saxifraga-Marijke Verhagen photo from FreeNatureImages.eu|
| Nigel Service's description in The Iris Year Book for 1985 of the British Iris Society, quoted it in full:
"On June 3rd, 1890, Baron E. Perrier de la Bathie, who ran a specialty nursery at the nearby town of Albertville, in the company of a Doctor Chabert found, after a prolonged search, an iris on the mountain named the Dent d'Arcluz in the Savoy Alps. A dwarf pogon iris in full flower and growing on what he described as a steep and perilous slope. In June 1894, in the Bulletin de l'Herbier Boissier, 2,11,436, he and A. Songeon wrote of this newly found plant and the circumstances of its discovery.
Just ninety years later, to within a few days, I also found this iris in flower, after a prolonged search, on that same steep and perilous slope. The altitude, according to present-day maps, is not as great as Perrier had thought, but the site is without doubt the same.
Now, the curious part. The plant was published as a species, Iris perrieri, by P. Fournier in Les quatre Flore de la France, 191, in 1935, for Perrier and Songeon had described it under the heading Iris bohemica F. W. Schmidt, the name by which I. aphylla L. was nearly invariably known throughout most of the 19th century.
This identification with I. aphylla has continued to carry more weight right up to 'Flora Europaea' and beyond, this despite the fact that there seems nothing on the type herbarium specimen at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris to indicate that this is the case.
These are the facts, but mixed up in them is an interesting inconsistency. Despite his identification of the species, the description in Bull. Herb. Bois. Contains a curious contradiction, for Perrier describes the stem as simple, hardly conforming with our concept of I. aphylla ( I. bohemica). He must have seen something very distinctive, up there on the mountain, to make him so sure it was the I. bohemica of Schmidt who clearly state "...versus basin tandum uno ramo instructus." (Flora Bohemica, 5 (1794)).
The only clone I know of up to now in cultivation originates from a collection now in the alpine botanic garden La Jaysinia in Samoëns, Haute Savoie, and a piece of this was kindly sent to me by Mr. Alain Richert a few years ago. It has been slow to increase, a point also noted by Mr. Farille, the Director of the garden.
I have visited the Dent d'Arcluz looking for I. perrieri on numerous occasions and, as I noted earlier, ninety years after it was first described, I at last found it in flower. Figure 2 encompasses its whole known habitat except for possibly a small section to the left and one isolated outpost further out. Not a large area. The spring was very late and so bloom was probably much retarded, occurring as it did in late June. Early in that month, as recorded by Perrier, is probably more normal. Plate xiv shows a view down the slope with I. perrieri in the foreground.
_I. perrieri_ grows in a narrow band, by my reckoning not much more than a hundred feet wide (if that), along a south-facing section of the mountain, at an altitude of about 4,875' (1,450 m.): just below the first low cliff visible in Figure 2, forerunner of the 1,000 foot tall main cliff which tops the mountain. It occupies an almost incredibly steep slope, the sort of slope you have difficulty standing on and where, should you roll, you would not stop until you hit the trees hundreds of feet below. It grows both on this slope among still rather snow-flattened grass and alpine vegetation such as Aster alpinus, Globularia cordifolia and Helianthemum nummularium, and on rocky steps formed by the outcropping of strata which have little other vegetation on them and, indeed, little soil. This soil, reddish and little in texture, is as highly alkaline as my soil test kit can indicate.
Leaves: So heavily ribbed as to appear corrugated or pleated, more or less falcate. Usually about 22-28 cm. X 2-2,4 cm.
Stems: Usually branching, 13,5-34 cm. But usually in the range of about 17-27 cm., though the stems of the two plants on the herbarium sheet in Paris are made by Perrier himself measured only 11 cm. And 13,4 cm. There is one uninflated subtending bract if branched, or one inflated stem leaf if simple, 4,5-8,5 cm. Long but not normally exceeding 6 cm. The bract might exceed the length of the branch.
Branches: From about half-way up the stem; possibly more usually above the middle but numbers must be about equal.....In one small area I found a few two-branched plants. A drawing, kindly prepared for me by Mrs. Dorothy Bovey (our figure 000), shows one of these, the stem of which was 26,5 cm. Tall. Close to this area I also found one plant with branching of the classic I. aphylla type, right from the base. But this was the only one and no other was even vaguely like that, not even those with two branches.
Spathes: Valves inflated, very green and widely separated on the stem with normally at least 1 cm. between outer and inner. The narrowest gap I measured was 5 mm. The inner valve was slightly longer in all save one plant and, because of the separation, appeared much longer. These spathes are a noticeable feature in that they remain fully green for several weeks after flowering. Usually two-flowered from the spathe, but Perrier does mention three.
Pedicels: Very short. I only made three measurements of this feature, 6 mm, 8 mm, and 5 mm; in all these cases it was of the second flower, the first always being shorter.
Ovaries: 1,2-1,4 cm. X 0,5-0,6 cm., rounded, 6-grooved.
Perianth Tubes: 1,7-2 cm. is normal.
Falls: About 5-7 cm. X 2,2-3 cm. The shape is as illustrated in Figure 3, the wedge-shaped haft passing without constriction into the rounded blade, the apex.
Seeds: Medium reddish-brown, pyriform and wrinkled.
One can examine provisionally the postulated close relationship of this species to I. aphylla on the evidence so far.
The single clone of I. perrieri in circulation has produced basal branching for Alain Richert, for Brian Mathew and for me. There seems no doubt that this type of very low branching is typical of I. aphylla, it always seems to behave in this way in the numerous plants in cultivation gathered from many sources. With I. perrieri, however, there is only the one source and in the wild its typical branching has been observed to be higher, from around the midpoint of the stem. None of the plants with two branches produced the lower of these from very near the base. That it can branch from the base in the wild has been observed too, so there seems no good reason to regard the Jaysinia clone as anything but a good, if untypical, specimen of the species.
In The Iris, Brian Mathew has remarked that I. schachtii Markgraf, a Turkish species, can also branch from so low that it has been taken for I. aphylla._
The distinctly ribbed leaves are another feature the two species share. But those of _I. perrieri seem more strongly corrugated than those of any example of I. aphylla I have seen, being closer in this characteristic to the leaves of I. variegata L.
The suggested synonymy dates of course back to the discovery of I. perrieri but Dr. L. F. Randolph has apparently stated that the two species are not related and that I. perrieri has no known affinities. Dr. Randolph would have been unlikely to have made this claim without firm grounds based on karyotype study but I have as yet been unable to trace the source of this reputed statement.
Figure 4 (not included) shows the seeds of I. perrieri on the left, with those of three forms of I. aphylla._
The lasting greenness of the spathe valves is noteworthy and the style crest is possibly a distinctive feature. In I. perrieri it seems nearly always to be at least a centimeter long and can exceed this considerably. Measuring herbarium specimens of _I. aphylla in Paris, it appears that the crest of this species mat be significantly shorter.
So there for the moment the matter rests, but at least we need no longer dismiss I. perrieri as "A little known species" (nor classify it for horticultural purposes as a Miniature Tall Bearded). Its slowness to increase may however prevent it from ever becoming a widely grown species."
|Williams, C.A., Harborne, J.B. & Colasante, M. (2000). The pathway of chemical evolution in Bearded Iris species based on flavonoid and xanthone patterns. Annali di Botanica , n.s, 58: 51-58.|
|Colasante, M. Mathew, B. (2008). Species of natural hybrid origin and misinformation in the Irises: A reappraisal of the presence of I. aphylla L. in Italy. Plant Biosystems 142: 172-178.|
|Colasante, M.A. (2014). Iridaceae presenti in Italia: 1-415. Sapienza, Università Editrice, Roma.|