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■ (SPEC) Iris bracteata Watson

1883, Watson

Iris bracteata Watson (Sereno Watson, 1883, Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon); CA (Series Californicae); 8-12" (20-30 cm); Flowers 6-7.5 cm diameter, cream, pale or medium yellow, lined with brown or reddish-purple veins; Leaves up to 1 cm wide; Perianth tube short and stout, only 5-10 mm diameter, but with closed spathes. The name bracteata refers to the stems being covered with short overlapping bracts, which are often stained red. This pigment also appears on the spathes and bases of leaves. Although I. purdyi also has bracts on its stems, it is easily separated by its long perianth tube.

See below:

AX-I-BRACTEATA PCNSC.jpgAX-I-BRACTEATA PCNSCcropped.jpgBracteata Bot Mag 8640.jpgIbracteata01.jpgIris bracteata-2.jpgIris bracteata-3.jpgIris bracteata-6.jpgIris bracteata-7.jpgIrisbracteata01.jpgIrisbracteata02.jpgIrisbracteata03.jpgIrisbracteata04.jpgIrisbracteata05.jpgIrisbracteata06.jpgIrisbracteata9.JPG


Proc. American acad. 20: 375. 1885;
Iris bracteata. Rootstock slender: radical leaves solitary, rigid, much exceeding the stem (1 to 2 feet long), striate, one side green, the other glaucous, revolute on drying : stem nearly a foot high, covered with imbricated sheathing bracts 2 to 4 inches long : bracts of the spathe approximate, 2 or 3 inches long, 2-flowered : perianth yellow, with a short funnelform tube ; sepals oblong, naked, 2 or 3 inches long, the oblanceolate petals somewhat shorter: capsules on exserted pedicels, ovate-oblong, an inch long. – Collected near Waldo, Josephine County, Oregon, by Thomas Howell, June, 1884. A remarkable species in its foliage. The leaf is unique in character, strictly though obscurely equitant at base, the blade vertical, but the two sides very different, – one side having numerous stomata and an exceedingly thin cuticle, very much as in some revolute-leaved grasses.
by Sereno Watson
Garden and Forest, 1888, p. 43, fig. 8; Iris bracteata.
AMONG the peculiar species of the genus Iris which are found upon the Pacific slope of North America, the one here figured is one of the more notable and interesting. From near the extremity of its slender rootstock it sends up a flowering stem which is covered by loose sheathing and overlapping bracts, purplish, and scarcely differing from the bracts which subtend the flowers. The flowers are usually large, either nearly pure yellow or the recurved sepals (or "'falls'," as they are sometimes called), veined with bluish purple. The tube of the flower is very short and funnel-shaped, and the sepals, as in all Western species, are without beard or crest. The petals are narrow and erect, and the narrow styles are much prolonged beyond the antliers. The leaves that arise from the rootstock are solitary, at first sheathed at base by several thin, equitant bracts which appear to soon dry and wither. The leaf itself is linear and taller than the stem, thick and leathery, and persistent to the second or third year. When dry, the margins become revolute as a consequence of a dissimilarity in the two surfaces. The ordinary equitant leaf of Iris is as if it were folded longitudinally upon itself, so that the two surfaces are identical in character. Here, while one side is smooth, close and bright green, as usual, the other is lighter colored, with a very thin cuticle crowded with stomata, making it, of course, much more hygrometric.
This species was found by Mr. Thomas Howell, of Arthur, Oregon, in 1884, in the mountains of Josephine County, very near the southern boundary of that State, flowering in the latter part of April and in iVIay. In 1887 he again visited the locality and secured roots, from which it is hoped that the plant may be introduced into cultivation. In its characters it is most nearly allied to I. Douglasiana, which is common in the Coast Ranges of California from Del Norte to Alameda County. That species is much more leafy, and the usually pale lilac flowers have a much longer and narrower perianth-tube. The accompanying figure is from a drawing by Mr. C. E. Faxon. 5. IV.
A.M., R.H.S. 1916, shown by Wal. AA clviii.;
Dykes in Gard. Chron. 1912, vol. Iii. p. 338, fig. 148,
Dykes in Genus Iris, 1913; p. 38
*Rootstock* , a slender, wide-creeping rhizome, branches few, growths scattered.
*Leaves* , 12-24 in. long, linear, few in number, rigid, 1/4-1/3 in. broad, with a glossy upper- and glaucous under-surface.
*Stem* , 4-6 in., sheathed in narrow acuminate bract-like leaves.
*Spathe valves* , 3-4 in., narrow, acuminate, 2-flowered.
*Pedicel* , 2 in.
*Ovary* , ¾ in., broader in the upper part and narrowing somewhat abruptly to the tube but tapering off gradually to the pedicel.
*Tube* , funnel-shaped, very short, about ½ in.
*Falls* . The broad oblanceolate blade narrows gradually to the broad haft. The blade is marked by four conspicuous veins, the inner pair being nearly parallel and continuing nearly to the apex; the outer pair are more curved and fade away sooner, the colour of the veins being brown purple and that of the ground a bright yellow.
*Standards* , lanceolate with a gradually tapering haft, of the same shade of yellow as the falls.
*Styles* , keeled, narrow.
*Crests* , large, subquadrate with serrated edges, revolute.
*Stigma* , a triangular tongue.
*Filaments* , bearing a few hairs near the base, shorter than the anthers.
*Anthers* , long and narrow.
*Pollen* , cream.
*Capsule* , almost circular in section, oblong, narrowing abruptly at either end.
*Seeds* , thick wedge-shaped, almost cubical.
The growth of this curious Iris is perhaps more scanty than that of any other known species. Its slender rhizome creeps widely but has few branches, so that the growths appear at some distance from each other. Moreover, only about two of the long dark green leaves grow from each point
These and the flower stems appear together in spring some inch or more in front of the previous year's growth, which then withers away. The points of resemblance and difference between this Iris and I. Purdyi will be found described in the Observations on the latter.
Some very beautiful hybrids or colour varieties of this Iris have appeared in my garden. I am unfortunately unable to give full details as to their parentage but can say definitely that they arose from seed of I. bracteata that was not the result of artificial pollination. Both I. Douglasiana and I. tenax were growing near the seed-parent and it is possible and indeed likely that the latter was fertilised by the agency of some bee with the pollen of one or the other of these two.
The plants are vigorous and very floriferous and the chief characters that point to their being of hybrid origin are to be found in the much closer growth and in the red, almost crimson colour of the flowers. One plant produced no less than eleven flower stems, at its first flowering in two years from seed, and though the shade of colour has varied in the individual plants, the characteristic veins of I. bracteata are visible in all cases on the blade of the falls. The perianth tube and ovary resemble those of I. bracteata.
Cultivation is, in general, the same as that of the other members of the group (see p. 35), but I. bracteata seems to be even more impatient of removal than any of the other species. Plants should always be raised from seeds and planted out permanently where it is intended that they should remain.
Curtis's Botanical Magazine 141: tab. 8640. 1915,The subject of our plate, Iris bracteata, has been in cultivation in the Iris Collection at Kew for a considerable number of years, and the material for our figure has been obtained from one of the oldest plants therein. The species was discovered in 1884 by Mr. T. Howell, of Arthur, Oregon, in the Walds and Dear Greek Mountains of Josephine County close to the southern boundary of the state, where it flowers in the latter part of April and in May. Under the cultural treatment suitable for most species of Iris it thrives well in this country, flowering a fortnight later than it does in its native habitat.
Purdy 1927; Ainsley 1928; Delkin 1929; Starker 1938;


Bracted Iris.

Chromosome counts

2n=40, Foster, 1937.



Iris bracteata crosses;

Distribution and Cultivation

Distribution: The distribution of the species gives clues as to its cultural requirements, although plants in cultivation can often tolerate a wider range of variables:
The species is found in the following region: Southern Oregon to Northern California within the following states; Oregon, California.
Bonap's North American Plant Atlas shows the following map. Reproduced by permission of Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2015. Taxonomic Data Center. ( Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2015. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]
Cultivation: Pacific Coast Natives have been a challenge in cultivation: They seem to do well in parts of England, New Zealand and Australia, but not particularly permanent in other climates. Short term successes have been reported from Missouri and North Carolina.

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-- Main.RPries - 2009-11-25
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
AX-I-BRACTEATA_PCNSC.jpgjpg AX-I-BRACTEATA_PCNSC.jpg manage 33 K 20 Sep 2010 - 11:31 UnknownUser Lorena Reid photo
AX-I-BRACTEATA_PCNSCcropped.jpgjpg AX-I-BRACTEATA_PCNSCcropped.jpg manage 38 K 20 Sep 2010 - 11:33 UnknownUser Lorena Reid photo
Bracteata_Bot_Mag_8640.jpgjpg Bracteata_Bot_Mag_8640.jpg manage 290 K 11 Feb 2014 - 20:21 BobPries Biodiversity Heritage Library
Ibracteata01.jpgjpg Ibracteata01.jpg manage 145 K 21 Sep 2014 - 18:10 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the John Weiler slide collection
Iris_bracteata-2.jpgjpg Iris_bracteata-2.jpg manage 79 K 08 Jun 2011 - 19:00 Main.ksayce Iris bracteata
Iris_bracteata-3.jpgjpg Iris_bracteata-3.jpg manage 61 K 08 Jun 2011 - 19:01 Main.ksayce Iris_bracteata-3
Iris_bracteata-6.jpgjpg Iris_bracteata-6.jpg manage 85 K 08 Jun 2011 - 19:02 Main.ksayce Iris_bracteata-6
Iris_bracteata-7.jpgjpg Iris_bracteata-7.jpg manage 81 K 08 Jun 2011 - 19:02 Main.ksayce Iris_bracteata-7
Irisbracteata01.jpgjpg Irisbracteata01.jpg manage 137 K 18 Sep 2014 - 02:05 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Adele and Lewis Lawyer slide collection
Irisbracteata02.jpgjpg Irisbracteata02.jpg manage 67 K 18 Sep 2014 - 02:09 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Adele and Lewis Lawyer slide collection
Irisbracteata03.jpgjpg Irisbracteata03.jpg manage 97 K 18 Sep 2014 - 02:11 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Adele and Lewis Lawyer slide collection
Irisbracteata04.jpgjpg Irisbracteata04.jpg manage 70 K 18 Sep 2014 - 02:12 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Adele and Lewis Lawyer slide collection
Irisbracteata05.jpgjpg Irisbracteata05.jpg manage 59 K 18 Sep 2014 - 02:14 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Adele and Lewis Lawyer slide collection
Irisbracteata06.jpgjpg Irisbracteata06.jpg manage 70 K 18 Sep 2014 - 02:15 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Adele and Lewis Lawyer slide collection
Irisbracteata9.JPGJPG Irisbracteata9.JPG manage 164 K 13 Nov 2022 - 02:49 Main.TLaurin Photo from the AIS Library
Topic revision: r24 - 13 Nov 2022, TLaurin
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