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■ (SPEC) Iris caucasica Hoff.

1808, botanical author Hoffmann

Iris caucasica Hoffmann (Georg Franz Hoffmann, 1808, Caucasus); Subgenus Scorpiris, Juno; Height 4-7" (10-18 cm); Color Class-Y4L; Storage roots only slightly thickened; Usually 5-7 well developed leaves at flowering time. The falcate, glaucous leaves are about 2 cm wide at the base and have somewhat indistinct margins that vary from densely ciliate to smooth. The leaves hide the stem or the internodes are just barely visible when the up to 4 flowers are produced. The yellow flowers arise from a perianth tube of 3-4 cm which is hidden and surrounded by a green and pointed bract and bracteole of about 6 cm length. The falls are nearly the same width at the haft as on the blade, but the wings on the haft turn upwards. The blade of the falls bears a crenulate, darker yellow crest. The standards turn downward or flare outward, are 1.3-2.5 cm long, oblanceolate, ending in a point or sometime three lobes. Style branches 2.5-3.5 cm long, elliptic to oblong. I. caucasica is separated from I. pseudocaucasica on the shape and size of the "falls".
Caucasica's haft is not widely winged and its blade wider both parts being between 1-1.8 cm wide. Whereas pseudocaucasica's haft is up to 2 cm wide while the blade is under 1 cm wide.
Pl. Iber. 1806, in Soc. Phys. Mosc. 1: 4, 40. 1880;

See below: ----


Iris caucasica Hoffm., Commentat. Soc. Phys.-Med. Univ. Lit. Caes. Mosq. 1: 40 (1808).
A Guide to Species Irises, their Identification and Cultivation, The Species Group of The British Iris Society, 1997, Cambridge;
Krel. 1875; Fl. Orient. 5: 121, 1882;
Barr 1898; Van T. 1900; 1909; Grull. 1907; Wal. 1913;
Sweet in the British Flower Garden, table 255;
Gartenflora 23: 194. tab. 800. 1874, illustrated in color
Sir Michael Foster in Bulbous Irises; 1892;

18. I. CAUCASICA.— Hoffmann, Comm. Soc. Phys. Mosc. i. p. 40 ; Marschal v. Bieberstein, Fl. Taut: Cans, i. p. 33. (From Caucasus, habitat.)

Lit. — Baker, Gard. Chron. 1876, i. p. G92 ; Maximo wicz, Act. Hort. Petrop. vi. p. 417 ; Melanges Biologiques (Brill. Acad. Imp. d. Sci, d. St. Petersb.), x. (1880) p. 688.

Fig.— Sweet, Brit. Fl. Gard. t. 255 ; Gartenflora, t. 800 ; Loddiges, Cabinet, t. 1506, sub. n. I. taurica.

Charact. — Bulb ovoid, with fleshy, radish-like roots. Leaves four to six in distichous tuft, falcate, so as to be nearly horizontal, lanceolate, pointed, ribbed, glaucous, with a conspicuous horny margin. Flowers two to three on a stem, so short that they appear sessile among the young leaves. Flower two to three inches across. Tube short, but rather longer than the inflated green spathe- valves. The claw of the fall, which bears a toothed median ridge, high and conspicuous at the hind part of the blade, lower on the claw, is expanded laterally into wings which are transparent, and which embrace the style. Standards minute, spoon-shaped, spreading horizontally. Crests of style large, quadrate. All parts of the flower a dull greenish yellow, except the median ridge of the fall and its neighbourhood, which is a brighter yellow, marked more or less with violet spots.

Var. MAJOR (TURKESTANICA). — Larger in all its parts, in foliage and flower. Flowers four or five on a distinct stem which is, however, wholly hidden by the clasping bases of the leaves. Blade of claw yellow, with little or no tinge of green: median ridge full yellow or orange, toothed, or even fringed, with hair-like processes ; wings of claw very pale and transparent, almost colourless. In other features same as type.

Var. KHARPUT. — Stem a foot or more high, but wholly hidden by the clasping bases of the eight or more distichously arranged leaves, which, six inches or more in length, narrow more gradually towards the point than in the type, and have a less conspicuous horny margin. Flowers five or so, sessile, in the axils of the upper leaves, three inches or so across, of a greenish yellow, except the median orange ridge of the fall. The claw of the fall has hardly any lateral wings, and the blade is large and oval. The standards are larger than in the type, bent vertically downwards, with the edges sharply curled in so as to form a channel. Crests of style large and quadrate. The whole aspect of the plant is very different from both the type and the var. major.

Time. — March.
Hab. — The Caucasus, Kurdistan, Armenia, Turkestan. The var. major (turkestanica) is found in Turkestan ; the var. Kharput in Armenia, near Kharput.
Dykes in The Genus Iris; 1913;
Rootstock , an ovate bulb, with thin brownish outer skins, and fleshy roots, persistent through the resting period.
Leaves , 4-6 in a tuft, lanceolate, falcate, bright glossy green above and glaucous beneath with a white horny edge closely set with minute setae, 4-6 in. long at flowering time; the leaves of non-flowering bulbs are two or more inches longer.
Stem , very short, bearing 1-4 flowers, two forming the terminal spike, the others being sessile in the axils of the leaves.
Spathes , flowered ; valves, green, inflated, lanceolate, not reaching to the top of the tube ; 2 in. long.
Pedicel , none or extremely short, not developing even after flowering.
Ovary , cylindrical, ½ in. long.
Tube , 1½-2 in. long, slender at the base and becoming slightly broader above.
Falls , greenish-yellow, becoming more distinctly yellow some time after opening; the haft is broad or wedge-shaped and the blade varies considerably in shape ; sometimes the ovate extremity expands into two large almost transparent wings ; in other cases these wings are only slightly developed and the whole blade is a rounded oblong ; the yellow or orange crest is finely toothed, almost breaking into hairs.
Standards , usually deflexed rather than spreading ; the deeply channelled haft opening into a small oblanceolate blade, sometimes so deeply toothed on either side as to become tridentate.
Styles , broad, greenish, sharply keeled.
Crests , large, broadly deltoid.
Stigma , bilobed, with a fringed edge, and a more or less well-marked cusp between the two segments.
Fi!aments , about equal in length to the anthers, greenish-yellow.
Anthers , creamy, large, reaching to the stigma.
Pollen , whitish, spherical, with pentagonal bosses.
Capsule , cylindrical, with thin papery walls, 1-1½ in. in length.
Seeds , spherical or globose, not irregularly compressed as in I. orchioides.


After I. alata, which was known to Clusius, I. caucasica was the next Juno species to be described. It is not a striking nor a very ornamental plant, but the almost transparent flowers of a delicate yellow harmonise so well with the glossy upper surface of the leaves that the result is very pleasing.

Its foliage is stiffer and more rigid than that of most of the other species and the spathes are much inflated.

The typical plant from the Caucasus is small and bears only one or two flowers, but there are taller and more luxuriant forms further south in Asia Minor. Cf. Foster's var. Kharput in Bulbous Irises, p. 78.

There is considerable doubt whether the plant that Foster called caucasica var, major (turkestanica) (ibid. pp. 36, 76 and Fig. 52) really came from Turkestan, for no such specimens apparently exist in herbarium collections, and reference to an article in the Gard. Chron. 1889, i. p. 582 shows that Foster only "understood (the specimens) were gathered in Turkestan."

The lateral expansions of the haft of the fall are sometimes not much developed. This was the distinguishing mark of Foster's caucasica var. Barnumensis (see Gard. Chron., I.e.) which he afterwards renamed var. Kharput (see Bulbous Irises, I.e.).


Coresantha caucasica, Klatt; Costia caucasica, Willk.; Juno Caucasica, Klatt in Bot. Zeit. 30: 498, 1872; Neubeckia caucasica, Alef.; Thelysia caucasica, Parl.; Xiphium caucasicum, Baker in Journ. Bot. 9: 109, 1871.


Chromosome counts

2n=18 Delaunay 1928.



Iris caucasica subsp. caucasica.
Iris caucasica subsp. turcica B.Mathew, Garden (London, 1975+) 106: 478 (1981). ----



Distribution & Cultivation

cauasica Tony Hall Sample.jpgcaucasica-Tony Hall.jpgcaucasica kelaidis.jpgcaucasica kelaidis2.jpgcaucasica kelaidis3.jpggartenfloraCaucasicaTable800.jpg

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-- Main.RPries - 2010-01-08
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Topic revision: r16 - 13 Dec 2016, BobPries
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