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The Development of Brown Tall-Bearded Irises

From the "The World of Irises" Chapter 4 by Melba B Hamblen and Keith Keppel. © 1978 AIS




Easily grown flowers in shades of tan and brown are almost unknown. Chrysanthemums and irises qualify, but what else? Even the iris rainbow was not always so all-inclusive. A few hundred years ago there were the squalens and sambucina type blends, wild hybrids of I. pallida and I. variegata, followed by garden hybrids of the same type, but these were mostly dull, smoky and insipid blends. It was not until the garden hybrids had been developed at the tetraploid level that the blending became refined enough to qualify as a true visual brown (AIS 1969).

The French firm of Cayeux et LeClerc introduced the golden tan 'Jean Cayeux' in 1931 and the chocolate bitone 'Louvois' in 1936. Both were immensely popular, and 'Jean Cayeux' became an antecedent of our best modem browns. In America, Kirkland's 'Copper Lustre' won the Dykes Medal in 1938. Even for its day it had poor form, but in bright golden copper, it was a color advance.

  'Jean Cayeux' 1931Jean Cayeux 'Louvois' 1936catalog 'Copper Lustre' 1934Copper Lustre





. The epic tale of brown irises is Kleinsorge' s achievement in hybridizing. His irises, introduced from the late 1920s until the early 1960s, included many colors, but the most outstanding were the tan blends, golden coppers, and true browns. The story begins with the 1936 introduction of 'Far West', a golden tan with lilac flush.

It threw seedlings in almost every iris color imaginable in that day, and no less than 11 first generation seedlings from it were introduced by Kleinsorge: 'Sierra Snow', 'Goldbeater', 'Prince of Orange', 'Old Parchment', 'Daybreak', 'Buckskin', 'Copper Cascade', 'Idanha', 'Aztec Copper', 'Apricot', and 'Grand Canyon'. Of these, 'Apricot', 'Daybreak', 'Goldbeater', and especially 'Aztec Copper' were to figure prominently in later breeding.

'Tobacco Road', a golden tobacco brown, was introduced in 1942. It was short, rotted readily, and was slow of growth, but its color was its fame. The following year 'Mexico', a blended variegata with golden buff standards and reddish brown falls, was introduced. 'Tobacco Road' came from 'Aztec Copper' x ('Far West' x 'Jean Cayeux'); 'Mexico' came from seedlings which trace to the red 'Rebellion', orange-yellow 'Naranja', 'Far West', 'Jean Cayeux' and others.

Kleinsorge crossed 'Mexico' and 'Tobacco Road', introducing five of this parentage from 1944 to 1948: 'Bryce Canyon', 'Chamois', 'Good News', 'Pretty Quadroon', 'Voodoo'. Most of the remainder of his brown line is a tangled web of intercrossings. 'Bryce Canyon' fathered 'Cordovan' and 'General Patton'. 'Chamois', with 'Cascade Splendor', gave 'Water Lily', 'Ballet Dancer', and 'Minuet'. 'Pretty Quadroon' was a parent to 'Beechleaf' and 'Malay'. 'Tobacco Road' with 'Goldbeater' gave the bright brown 'El Paso'. 'Mexico' and Goldbeater' produced the pinkish apricot-tan blend 'Cascade Splendor. 'Cascade Splendor' was responsible for 'Fluted Copper', the variegata 'Golden Crown', 'Alline Rogers', 'Toast an' Honey', 'Surprise Party', 'Cairo', and others in the Kleinsorge line; it was used heavily and productively by other breeders .

'Bryce Canyon' Offspring

  'Cordovan' 1946Cordovan 'General Patton' 1936General Patton

'Chamois' X 'Cascade Splendor' Offspring

  'Minuet' 1946Minuet 'Ballet Dancer' 1949Ballet Dancer



The Sass brothers had already established an involved line of blends at the time Kleinsorge was beginning his work with 'Far West', and in 1939 the peachy tan blend 'Prairie Sunset' was introduced won the Dykes Medal in 1943, the same year that its golden apricot-tan seedling 'Sunset Serenade' was introduced. Fred DeForest worked with browns, also. Using 'Prairie Sunset' pollen on one of his seedlings, he got the large, rather long-falled rich brown 'Casa Morena' which, crossed with 'Tobacco Road', resulted in the wider and brighter 'Argus Pheasant', a 1948 introduction that won the Dykes Medal four years later.

Jesse Wills took Hall's 'Stardom', an apricot buff which goes back to 'Jean Cayeux', 'Dauntless', and 'Rameses', and crossed it with 'Old Parchment' to create 'Russet Wings'. The reddish tan 'Spellbound' came from Jack Linse's direct cross of 'Tobacco Road' and 'Prairie Sunset'. Brizendine's 'Millionaire' involves 'Sunset Serenade', 'Prairie Sunset', and 'Bryce Canyon', among others.

Jesse Wills, Jack Linse, & Mildred Brizendine

'Russet Wings' 1945Russet Wings 'Spellbound' 1951Spellbound 'Millionaire' 1956Millionaire



Grant Mitsch, the leading American hybridizer of daffodils, lived not far from Kleinsorge and was familiar with his work. He repeated the famous 'Mexico' x 'Tobacco Road' cross in quantity, and from his seedlings he selected 'Hermit Thrush' and 'Inca Chief' for introduction. Schreiners used the glowing mustard-tan 'Inca Chief' heavily in their breeding. From 'Bryce Canyon' and 'Sunset Serenade' came 'Copper Medallion'; adding 'Inca Chief' gave 'Bronze Bell'. 'Inca Chief' with a seedling of 'Copper Medallion' and 'Argus Pheasant' gave 'Brass Accents', which later became the parent of 'Gingersnap'. 'Olympic Torch' is from 'Inca Chief' with a seedling involving 'Prairie Sunset', 'Bryce Canyon', and the New Zealand variety 'Watchfire', a tall, well-branched reddish copper. 'Inca Chief' stands behind many other of the Schreiner browns and blends, including 'Honeybird', 'Honey Chiffon', 'Eternal Flame', 'Candalaria', 'Neon Rainbow', and 'Tijuana Brass'. 'Dutch Chocolate' is an exception, involving mainly reds, but with 'Cordovan' on either side of its ancestry.

Few browns perform well in hot-weather areas, but Neva Sexton's 'Mr. Lincoln' is a fine exception. Its pod parent was a golden yellow seedling from 'Moon River', 'Russet Wings', and 'Tom-Tom', a blended variegata which can be traced back to 'Tobacco Road' and 'Prairie Sunset'; its pollen parent was a seedling of 'Olympic Torch' and the brown-marked plicata 'My Honeycomb'.

Neva Sexton's 'Mr. Lincoln'

'Mr. Lincoln' 1972'Mr. Lincoln'



All browns are blends, deriving their color from the visual mingling of two separate types, and colors, of pigments. Many are uniformly colored, while others show conspicuous gradations of color, such as lavender blue to violet flushes in the falls. The Sass brothers had many tan or tannish blends in their line, with 'Matula', 'Midwest Gem', and 'Rainbow Room' serving as examples of those used heavily in later brown or tan breeding. 'Rainbow Room' is a parent of 'Twenty Grand', and this blend of tan gold and orchid, used with a 'Cascade Splendor' seedling, gave Gordon Plough his 'Caribou Trail' and 'Butterscotch Kiss'.

'Lady Albright', bright coppery brown with large rosy violet fall areas, involves both 'Matula' and 'Far West' twice. Babson's distinctive line of blends, best typified by the buff, lavender and brown 'Commentary' and 'Cambodia' involves 'Mexico', 'Tobacco Road', the red blend 'Savage', and the, rose blend 'Sultan's Robe'. 'Cambodia' also carries 'Russet Wings' in its pedigree.

Muhlestein's and Babson's Blends

'Lady Albright' 1949Lady Albright 'Cambodia' 1966Cambodia


====================================================================================================== The World Of Irises continues with "The Pot Of Gold" ====================================================================================================== ----

For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at

-- BobPries - 2015-10-21
Topic revision: r19 - 14 Jan 2016, BobPries
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