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Identification Of Iris

A goal of this encyclopedia is to help someone identify an Iris as to species and cultivar. A dichotomous key is being constructed to sort the 300 or so accepted species. But identifying a cultivar among the 65,000 is another task. It will be sometime before this will be possible, since a good deal more work and data needs to be added before we can achieve this result. We invite programers, to help us achieve this end, along with photographers to add images, and students of the genus to add information. See preliminary work at Dykes' Key for Iris species and Color classes for TB's or Unknown Identification pages.

Unknown identification

If you have an unknown you can post it on the wiki in the Unknown Identification pages. Directions are provided there.


Presently the best we can do is verification. Presuming one has a name, one can check out the Irises associated with that name and perhaps verify the identity. But without at least some additional clues it is difficult to arrive at an identity. With only the Iris in front of you and nothing else it is presently almost impossible to say if it is a named cultivar or a seedling that came up in a garden. We say almost impossible because there are some irises that are so distinctive it is possible to make a provisional identification.

What is needed to achieve Identification?

The tools needed amount to the following;
  1. Observations,

  2. Precision in terminology;

First, better observations need to be made. Most of the checklist descriptions do not provide enough information to separate a given cultivar from ten other similar cultivars. This Encyclopedia attempts to collect all known data about each cultivar. Therefore it has a good beginning for assembling the information. Observations can be added by users, so one can collect data in real time, not waiting for publications. It would be good for each AIS Section to have a committee working on data collection, defining what is needed for each group.

Second, terms need more precise definition and consistent use. Example it was very difficult to create a listing of The Novelty Flat Iris Cultivars because of inconsistencies in the descriptions. A search of flat recovered only a few. No standards picked up more, 6-falls added additional one and many had no clear notation in the description as to this trait at all. If a computer is going to be asked to sort through 65K of cultivars, exact terminology must be available.

Third, abbreviations should be discouraged. If we write S for Standards we will also pick up S for Samuel in Abbreviated names. Many of our abbreviations also mean different things to different people, and have changed through time.

Fourth, descriptions need quantification and validation. For example small flowers or enormous flowers does not give us anything but a relative measure. Flowers 3 inches high and 2 inches wide is less subjective. And one measurement in one season and one region does not begin to tell us how much variability one could expect under different conditions. If many measurements are taken in different years and different regions a range of numbers with emerge. For some plants and some traits there will be greater consistency than for others.

Does all this sound impossible? We have presently over 4,000 members in the Iris Society and over 15,000 interested viewers that read this encyclopedia regularly. Even if only a fraction of them would provide added information on their plants the task begins to become manageable. This is one of the great beauties of Plant Societies and the internet, by working together we can achieve exciting possibilities heretofore undreamed of. As a well known irisarian once said, "sometimes we have 4,000 irisarians each inventing the wheel, when together they could be synergistic in their efforts. This coming together is how the Encyclopedia has come about and for that matter how the American Iris Society arose almost 100 years ago. We can do great things in the future.


-- BobPries - 2014-12-16
Topic revision: r4 - 28 Oct 2016, BobPries
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