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■ (SPEC) Iris aphylla L.

1753, Botanical author Linnaeus


Iris aphylla L. (Carolus Linnaeus, 1753, Bohemia to Caucasus); Section Iris . DB; E; 6-12" (15-30 cm); Color code=!B7D; One to five flowers of pale to dark purple or violet blue on stems that branch well below the middle often near the base of the stem; leafless in winter. Linnaeus in Species Plantarum ed: 1 : 38. 1753, (generally no fragrance, with notable exceptions)

See below:


Images of I. aphylla in the wild at INaturalistUK
Iris aphylla L. (Carolus Linnaeus, 1753)_I. aphylla_ is one of the steppe plant species classified as extremely rare and endangered in many red data books and lists in Europe Today. The centre of the range of I. aphylla covers Ukraine, Central and South Russia, the Caucasus and Asia Minor. In Poland, Byelorussia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Rumania populations of this species are at the limit of its geographical range. It is a long-lived, rhizomatous perennial plant, with stem 20-70 cm tall, slender, branched below its mid-point and often from its base (from Wroblewska et al, "High levels of genetic diversity in populations of Iris aphylla L. (Iridaceae), an endangered species in Poland." Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2003, 142, 65-72).
A.M., R.H.S. 1916;  
This species is tetraploid with 48 chromosomes and has been used extensively in hybridizing programs with tall bearded varieties to reduce the flower and plant size and to increase the branching and bud count. Many of the resulting hybrids are tetraploid MTB varieties.
Prince 1829;
Barr 1910;
Van T. 1900; 1911;
Dykes, Genus Iris 158. 1913, Gives;


Rootstock , a compact rhizome.
Leaves , ensiform, more or less glaucous, the outermost of each tuft being usually falcate ; the nonflowering tufts are usually as long as or longer than the stem; withering entirely away in autumn and not shooting again until the spring.
Stem , 8-15 inches high, branched below the centre. The point of attachment of the lower lateral to the main stem is often at the ground line so that two stems appear to rise side by side. In some weak plants the lateral branch from the base does not develop.
Spathes , green or flushed with purple, usually somewhat inflated and membranous and only slightly scarious in the upper part, 1-2-flowered.
Pedicels , very short.
Ovary , short, oblong.
Tube , 3/4-1 in. long, green, more or less flushed with purple.
Falls . The obovate blade passes without any marked constriction into the tapering wedge-shaped haft. The colour is purple, either of a blue or red shade, and the beard, which is often very straggling, is in front white more or less distinctly tipped with blue. In the centre the blue tips are absent and at the base the hairs become yellow. 2-2 1/2 in. by 1-1/4 in.
Standards , the obovate or suborbicular blade narrows abruptly to the narrow, channelled, brown veined haft. The colour is nearly the same as that of the falls but sometimes of a slightly paler shade. 2-2 1/2 in. by 1 1/4-1 1 1/2 in.
Styles , keeled, oval or triangular.
Crests , triangular, usually with serrate edge.
Stigma , entire.
Filaments , colourless or flushed with blue purple.
Anthers , cream or cream edged with blue purple.
Pollen ; White or bluish
Capsule , rounded trigonal, tapering, with more or less distinctly marked grooves at the angles and on the sides.
Seeds , globose or slightly pyriform, dark brown or red brown, wrinkled.

An examination of Linnaeus' account of two of his species,. namely I. aphylla and I. biflora, and of the authorities on which his statements are based seems to show that he did not clearly distinguish two widely separated plants. I. aphylla is described by Linnaeus as a bearded Iris, having a many-flowered bare stem of the same length as the leaves'. This description is quoted from Royen's Florae Leydensis Prodromus, p. 17 (1740), which in turn quotes C. Bauhin's Pinax, p. 32 (1623). The latter refers to Clusius' History of Pannonian Plants (1583) Iris VII caulifera purpurea 1 and 2 2 Clusius as usual makes it quite clear to what plant he is referring by the statement that it is leafless in winter•. That this Central European plant was known to Linnaeus is proved by the specimen in the Linnaean Herbarium at the Linnaean Society, although it is there named I. biflora and not I. aphylla. No locality is given either with this specimen or in the literature.

Linnaeus' name, I. biflora, is based on plants in the Hortus Upsaliensis, p. 17 (1748), Hortus Cliffortianus, p. 19 (1737), and in C. Bauhin's Pinax, p. 33 (1623). In all three descriptions there occurs the phrase "on rocks near the sea in Portugal'" and in the first two the name is explained as meaning that the plant flowered twice in the year. The source of this information is to be found in Clusius, Hist. Hisp. p. 221 (1576), where Clusius describes a plant which he found flowering in November on the rocks near Coimbra and named somewhat inappropriately I. biflora for the reason just given. No direct citation of this passage of Clusius can be traced but there can be little doubt that this is the origin of the descriptions in pre-Linnaean literature.

This Portuguese plant is the I. subbflora of Brotero and it is obvious that Linnaeus confused it with the Central European I. aphylla, for not only did he name his herbarium specimen of the latter
I. biflora, but he also quotes in his description of I. biflora C. Bauhin, Pinax, p. 33, who refers to
1. Iris corollis barbatis, scapo nudo longitudine foliorum multifloro, Linn. I.e.
2. Not Iris VII et caulifera, which is a misquotation.
3. Peculiarem habet notam ut nulla folia per hiemem retineat, sed omnia flaccescant et exsiccentur, Clusius I.e. p. 249.
4. In rupibus maritimis Lusitaniae.

Chamaeiris latifolia in the Hortus Eystett. vern. vm. i. (1613). The figure there given is undoubtedly I. aphylla and not the Portuguese plant, which is depicted at v1. ii. under the name of I. portugalica. Since, therefore, Linnaeus' name of I. biflora is based on a confusion between the Portuguese and the Central European plants, it seems not unreasonable to reduce it to a synonym partly of his own I. aphylla and partly of the I. subbiflora of Brotero.

I. aphylla is a most variable species, in dealing with which I have not ventured to separate any varieties. It is impossible to do this with certainty from the written accounts, for most of the descriptions of the synonyms given above omit the differentiae, which separate the plant in question from those already known. It is likewise impossible to rely on herbarium specimens, for differences in the foliage, in colour, in character of the spathes or in the formation of the ovary are seldom visible in such material and seed-vessels are usually entirely absent.

All that can be done at present is to define I. aphylla as the only known European species of Iris with bearded flowers and a stem that branches below the middle, often at the very ground line ( cf. Fig. 20, p. I 58). I ts habitat extends from Bohemia in the west to the Caucasus in the east. The only satisfactory means of defining and correlating the various forms of this species would obviously be to grow side by side and under similar conditions either collected plants or even preferably plants raised from seed from known localities. Such a task can only be undertaken with the help of botanists familiar with the range of the species and it is to them that I should like to appeal for help in the matter. It is not enough to know the appearance of the wild plant, for different conditions of soil and environment are capable of producing such marked changes in the plants, that apparent differences in nature may be only accidental and disappear when the plants are removed to identical conditions. As an instance, we may take the case of the I. furcata of Bieberstein, the Caucasus representative of I. aphylla. In the wild state, as Bieberstein' noticed and as was shown by withered stems still attached to rhizomes sent to me from the Caucasus, the flowers are few in number. In cultivation, however, in garden soil, where the struggle for existence is less keen, the inflorescence at once became more complex and the flowers more numerous.

In their synopsis of the Central European Flora Ascherson and Graebner have divided the species into the three main headings typica, Fieberi, and hungarica, under which they have attempted to group the numerous synonyms. Their typical plant has a hexagonal ovary, while Fieberi and hungarica are said to agree in the possession of trigonal ovaries and to differ chiefly in that h1mgarica has a slightly longer tube in comparison with Fieberi.

The existence of numerous intermediate forms seems to suggest that we should await the results of further cultivation and comparison of living material, bearing all the time in mind that it is not impossible that we may be dealing with a series of different combinations of Mendelian characters. In the latter case two courses are open to us, either to name every variety however slightly it may differ from others or to determine the limits of the species and merely define it so as to exclude other species and to admit every possible combination of the characters involved. For practical purposes the latter course seems preferable.

A plant that is often found in gardens under the name of I. gracilis, with the characteristic branching stem of I. aphylla and flowers of a pale yellowish or greyish white irregularly splashed with purple, is presumably an albino form of this species. It can scarcely be called ornamental but it is very free flowering and sweetly scented.

After seeing Dr Stapf's original specimens of I. benacensis, now at the University of Vienna, I have come to the conclusion that the plant, which is fairly common in gardens under that name, is true and that it is only one more form of I. aphylla, distinguished by the long, narrow spathes, heavily streaked with red purple. The falls are narrow, strap-shaped, of a rich red purple, with a dense beard of white hairs slightly tipped with blue in front and with yellow behind.

The cultivation of I. aphylla is of the easiest. Like other Central European Irises, it loses its leaves entirely for some months in winter and is accordingly very hardy. The plants grow rapidly and must therefore be shifted or at least be provided with fresh soil at intervals of about three years. Transplantation should take place immediately the flowers have faded.
Wing 1920;

Chromosome counts:

2n=48 (Simonet), 2n=48 (Randolph 1947).


Stool Iris; (no fragrance); sometimes used for 'Swerti'; Iris benacensis A. Kerner ex Stapf; Iris biflora Linn.; Iris biflora Pallas; Iris biflora Reichb.; Iris bifurca Stevens; Iris bisflora Sweet; Iris bisflorens Hort; Iris bohemica Schmidt; Iris breviscapa Opiz; Iris clusiana Tausch; Iris extrafoliacea Mikau; Iris falcata Tausch; Iris fieberi Reichb.; Iris fieberi Seidl.; Iris fieberi var. monantha Schur; Iris furcata Bieb.; Iris furcata, Curtis's Botanical Magazine 2361; Iris furcata Lindley; Iris fourchu; Iris hungarica Walld.; Iris nudicaulis Hooker; Iris nudicaulis Reichb.; Iris polonika Blocki ex Aschers. & Graebn; Iris reflexa E. Berg; Iris rigida Fieber ex Klatt; Iris schmidtii Hort, ex Baker; Iris subbiflora Fieber ex Klatt.


There have been many names proposed that have been called synonyms of Iris aphylla and several which have been later downgraded to varietal rank. Unfortunately no one author has addressed all of these names in the same paper. Therefore it is impossible to say that some of the following names may not actually overlap, but although questionable in their taxonomic validity, treated as cultivars, they can indicate the variability present.

Iris aphylla L.
  • subsp. aphylla
    • var. aphylla
    • var. polonika (Blocki ex A. & G.) Soo
    • var. nudicaulis (Zapal) Soo
    • var. fieberi
      • forma fieberi
      • forma monantha (Schur.) Ash. and Graeb.
  • subsp. babadagica (Rzazade & Golneva)
  • subsp. hungarica (Waldst. & Kit.) Helgi
  • subsp. furcata (Bieb.)Bieb.
Iris aphylla has numerous variations that have been provided with cultivar names. They are as follows: 'Ahlburg', 'Aphylla Gigantea', 'Aphylla Hungarica', 'Aphylla Hungary', 'Aphylla Osiris', 'Aphylla Polonica', 'Aphylla Slovakia, 'Aphylla Wine-Red', 'Austrian Violet', 'Babadagica', 'Benacensis', 'Biflora', 'Bifurcata', 'Bisflorens', 'Bohemica', 'Bright Water', 'Bujoreanui', 'Chamaeiris Campbelli', 'Chloris', 'Coelstis', 'Dacia', 'Dacica', 'Fieberi', 'Furcata', 'Hungarica', 'Hungarica Minor', 'Ladies Of Peeling', 'Melzeri', 'Minnow', 'Monantha', 'Nudicaulis', 'Nudicaulis Major', 'Nudicaulis Purpuerea', 'Ostry White', 'Prodan', 'Slick', 'Thisbe', 'Thisbe's Child', 'Transylvania Native', 'Wee Charmer', 'Werckmeister', 'Yellow Conundrum'.

Iris aphylla crosses:

  • Crosses with Iris lutescens:
  • Crosses with Iris pumila:
    • 'Barthaeiformis', 'Barthaeiformis Violacea', 'Barthii', 'Binata', 'Binata Purpurea', 'Binata Sulphurea', 'Diantha', 'Guertleri', 'Laurin', 'Pseudopumilaeoides',
    • 'Velvet Toy'
  • Crosses with Iris pallida:
  • Crosses with Iris germanica:
  • Crosses with Iris reichenbachii:
  • Crosses with MDBs:
  • Crosses with SDBs:
    • 'Jim Jams', 'Little Whirlybird', 'Minivet', 'Multiplex', 'Spun Honey', 'Tantris'
  • Crosses with MTBs:
    • 'John Boy', 'Mellacata'
  • Crosses with BBs:
    • 'Alpha Gnu', 'Blueberry Filly', 'Scale Model'
  • Crosses with TBs:
  • Crosses with Iris humilis:
    • 'Arenaphylla', 'Goetz', 'Kola', 'Missona', 'Patula', 'Valery Germanis'
  • Crosses with Iris timofejewii:
    • 'Metcalfiana'
  • Iris aphylla with unknown:
    • 'Manyara See', 'Oriental Tan', Tomorrow'
¼ Iris aphylla crosses:
  • 'Bill Lewis', 'Chatelaine', 'Country Deejay', 'Desert Haze', 'Grand Atlantic', 'Lapwing', 'Limeade', 'Marooned', 'Moss Bay', 'New Idea', 'Prodigy', 'Red Senorita', 'Saucy', 'Silver Down', 'Snow Trim', 'Sounder', 'Step Ahead', 'Sunshiny'

Distribution and Cultivation

Distribution: Region: Central.& Eastern Europe including the following states: Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, France, Albania, Italy, Romania, Yugoslavia, Russia, Ukraine, RUC
Cultivation: Iris aphylla goes completely dormant in the winter with no apparent leaves. it is therefore very tolerant of colder zones. The plant flourishes with full sun and well-drained locations, As with most bearded Iris it is quite drought tolerant when established. During the summer drought is a good time to divide and plant Iris aphylla.

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-- WilliamChaney - 2010-01-19
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
61923323 Iris aphylla bitone T.A. (2RS).jpgjpg 61923323 Iris aphylla bitone T.A. (2RS).jpg manage 86 K 22 Jul 2019 - 15:51 HollyJohnson2017-04-01 Photo by Tatiana Allen, zone 4b
62033663 Iris aphylla 61-56A T.A. (2RS).jpgjpg 62033663 Iris aphylla 61-56A T.A. (2RS).jpg manage 195 K 22 Jul 2019 - 16:12 HollyJohnson2017-04-01 Photo by Tatiana Allen, zone 4b
Iaphylla.jpgjpg Iaphylla.jpg manage 31 K 06 Oct 2014 - 02:20 UnknownUser Photo by Chapman Iris
Iris aphylla T.A.60945461 (2RS).jpgjpg Iris aphylla T.A.60945461 (2RS).jpg manage 166 K 22 Jul 2019 - 15:49 HollyJohnson2017-04-01 Photo by Tatiana Allen, zone 4b
Iris-aphylla.jpgjpg Iris-aphylla.jpg manage 53 K 19 Jan 2010 - 06:53 Main.Bill photo of Iris aphylla
aphyjja91.JPGJPG aphyjja91.JPG manage 160 K 28 Dec 2021 - 02:14 UnknownUser Photo by Nancy McDonald-The Pickle Barrel Collection.
aphylla-purple-bracts_red.jpgjpg aphylla-purple-bracts_red.jpg manage 52 K 03 Sep 2010 - 01:29 UnknownUser Harold Mathes photo
aphylla.jpgjpg aphylla.jpg manage 61 K 24 Apr 2012 - 15:36 Main.tomlwaters photo by Tom Waters, Cuyamungue, New Mexico, April 2012
aphylla01.jpgjpg aphylla01.jpg manage 90 K 19 Nov 2014 - 16:28 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Stephens slide collection
aphylla010.JPGJPG aphylla010.JPG manage 97 K 05 Aug 2022 - 02:19 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Bee Warburton slide collection
aphylla011.JPGJPG aphylla011.JPG manage 86 K 05 Aug 2022 - 02:20 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Bee Warburton slide collection
aphylla012.JPGJPG aphylla012.JPG manage 78 K 05 Aug 2022 - 02:21 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Bee Warburton slide collection
aphylla2.jpgjpg aphylla2.jpg manage 53 K 24 Apr 2012 - 15:36 Main.tomlwaters photo by Tom Waters, Cuyamungue, New Mexico, April 2012
aphylla3.jpgjpg aphylla3.jpg manage 65 K 14 Feb 2020 - 19:32 UnknownUser Photo by Tom Waters-Telperion Oasis
aphylla4.jpgjpg aphylla4.jpg manage 94 K 15 Feb 2020 - 03:28 UnknownUser Photo by Tom Waters-Telperion Oasis
aphylla9.JPGJPG aphylla9.JPG manage 228 K 15 Dec 2021 - 01:47 UnknownUser Photo by Nancy McDonald-The Pickle Barrel Collection.
aphylla90.JPGJPG aphylla90.JPG manage 220 K 15 Dec 2021 - 01:48 UnknownUser Photo by Nancy McDonald-The Pickle Barrel Collection.
werckmeister01.JPGJPG werckmeister01.JPG manage 110 K 23 Oct 2014 - 00:03 UnknownUser Photo by Joe Pye Weed's Garden
Topic revision: r48 - 30 May 2024, BobPries
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