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■ (SPEC) Iris filifolia Boiss.

1839, Bossier

Iris filifolia Bossier (Edmond Boissier, 1839-45, Spain, North Africa and Rock of Gibraltar); Subgenus Xiphium . height 10-16" (25-40 cm);

See below:
filifolia edited-1.jpgfilifoliaBoissier.jpgfilifoliaCurtis1871.jpgfilifoliaSaxifraga-DirkHilbers.jpgfilifoliaSaxifraga-DirkHilbers2.jpgIris-filifolia-subsp.-filifolia-11.jpgIris-filifolia-subsp.-filifolia-21.jpg


Boissier, E.P., Voyage botanique dans le midi d’Espagne, vol. 1: t. 170 (1839-1845) [J.C. Heyland]
as Xiphion filifolium, Hook. Fil. in Curtis's Botanical Magazine table 5928; where Hooker gives the following description; "Now that the cultivation of hardy herbaceous plants is coming prominently into vogue, many beautiful novelties will be annually added to our beds, borders, and frames, for many years to come, and amongst them few are more desirable than the species of Iris and Xiphion, because of their facility of treatment, their rapid multiplication, varieties of gorgeous coloring, and comparatively early season of flowering.

The species of Xiphion inhabit, for the most part, dry exposed places in the Mediterranean region, flowering from March to May, a month or two before they arrive at perfection in this country. X. filifolium is a native of Southern Spain, where it was discovered by Boissier, in sandy calcareous rocks on the Sierra Bermeja, at an elevation of 3,000 to 4,000 feet (French); it probably also inhabits Marocco, where the magnificent X. tangitanum grows, a much larger plant, with darker more maroon-colored flowers. Flowering specimens of this latter gorgeous plant were given me at Tangiers by Sir J. Drummond Hay, apropos of which Miss Hay informed me that a similar smaller flowered kind grew in the vicinity of Tangiers, which most probably is X. filifolium.

The specimen of X. filifolium here figured was brought by Mr. Maw from the rock of Gibralter in 1869, and flowered in Benthal Gardens in July of the present year. In Gibraltar it flowers in April.

*Descr.* Bulb from the size of a hazel nut to a walnut, with a brown fibrous coat. Stem slender, one to two feet high, terete, leafy. Leaves sometimes twice as long as the stem, glabrous, filiform, flexuous, convolute, keeled, dilated at the base into a slender sheath. Spathes two to three inches long, compressed, narrow lanceolate, acuminate, green, pale brown when dry, deeply striated, margins and tip broadly membranous. Flowers one, rarely two, of fine violet purple, one and a half to two and a half inches in diameter; tube of perianth slender, half an inch long, enclosed in the spathes; segments about twice as long as the tube; outer with a narrow claw, which rather suddenly expands into a reflexed orbicular obovate lamina, that bears on its disk a golden-yellow truncate stripe bordered with blue; inner segments obovate-lanceolate, erose above the middle, tip notched. Stigmas deeply two-lobed; lobes lanceolate, acute, erose. Capsule one to one and a half inches long, linear, trigonous, acute at both ends."
A.M., R.H.S. 1915, shown by Dykes; Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society 41: 2, cxxv. Dec. 1915;
Dykes 1913; notes this is an Iris filifolia misidentified as I. Tingitana

Baker gave the following description ;

"The large lilac-flowered Irises with a bulbous rootstock fall into two well-marked groups, firstly Xiphion and xiphioides, well know and wisely cultivated in pre-Linnean times; and secondly, the less known, more recently described, and rarer Mediterranean types, filifolia, Fontanessii, and the present plant. The latter possess a distinct cylindrical tube to the perianth above the ovary, whilst in the former there is no tube between the ovary and the diverging segments of the lmb. The present plant was discovered long ago by Schousboe and Salzmann in the neighborhood on Tangiers, but has only lately been brought into cultivation. It was first imported by Geo. Maw, and has been flowered successfully by Messrs. Leichtlin and Elwes and Professor M. Foster. Our plate was drawn from a plant communicated by the latter, which he flowered in April, 1884. Besides the presence of the tube, it differs from I. Xiphion in the growing bulbs shooting in the spring and not in autumn, in the stouter leaves entirely hiding the stem by their clasping bases, and in the much larger blade of the outer segments of the perianth. Prof. Foster calls attention to a point which has hitherto escaped notice, that whilst in Xiphion, tingitana, and filifolia the petaloid style is pressed tightly down against the claw of the outer segments, in xiphioides it is so much arched that a large insect can obtain easy access to the anther without forcing its way. It is very likely that these new Mediterranean types will prove more difficult to keep alive and to flower than their older-known allies.

The Tangiers plant figured as X. tingitanum in this work at plate 5981 is a form of X. flifolium, which I have called intermedium.
Description. Bulb ovoid, pointed; outer tunics thin, reddish-brown, with strongly-marked veins. Stem stout, terete, about two feet long, quite hidden by the bases of the clasping leaves. Produced stem-leaves six or seven, linear, falcate, the lowest a foot long, deeply channelled down the face, tapering to a point, pale glaucous green. Flowers two or three in a single terminal cluster; outer spathes-valves lanceolate, about four inches long, membranous at the margin and tip. Ovary cylindrical, one and a half or two inches long; pedicel short; perianth-tube cylindrical, as long as the ovary; limb bright lilac or purple; outer segments obovate unguiculate, three inches long, with a deflexed limb as long as the claw, with a bright yellow keel; segments lanceolate, concolorous, erect, as long as the outer. Styles with large deltoid erect plicate toothed appendages. Anther linear, much longer than the free filament."
Krelage 1892; Van T. 1909; 1911;
Dykes, The Genus Iris 218. tab. 44. 1913,
Rootstock , an ovate bulb, with slender, scarcely ribbed outer tunics.
Leaves , 12 or more inches long, very slender and tapering, 5-7 in number, the uppermost being much reduced ; the leaves of non-flowering bulbs are much longer, 2 or more feet in length.
Stem , about 12 or 18 inches high, bearing a single, usually 2-flowered head.
Spathe valves, pointed, rigid, green, sharply keeled, the inner valve being slightly longer than the outer, 2½-3 in. in length.
Pedicel , 1-1½ in., growing eventually to as much as 3 in.
Ovary , an inch or slightly more in length, much rounded trigonal, with a groove running down each face.
Tube , ½-1 in., slender.
Falls , 2½ inches in length, the panduriform haft being longer than the orbicular blade. The colour is of a rich reddish purple with darker veins set off by an orange signal patch, which ends broadly on the blade, not narrowing to a point. There is also a slightly raised central orange ridge.
Standards , distinctly obovate unguiculate with a blunt emarginate end. The colour is similar to that of the falls.
Styles , broad, of the same colour.
Crests , large, quadrate, with serrate upper edge.
Stigma bilobed
Filaments slightly longer than the anthers
Anthers cream
Pollen , yellow.
Capsule , 2-2½ in. long, narrow, rounded trigonal, with deeply grooved sides.
Seeds , small, wedge-shaped, wrinkled, of a rather yellowish brown, very numerous, as many as 236 having been counted in a single capsule.

The name of this species is perhaps a little misleading, for although in some specimens, especially in the case of non-flowering bulbs, the leaves are very long, narrow and threadlike, yet in others they are distinctly stouter. This variability of the foliage has led to some confusion owing to the fact that a stout form was figured in the Botanical Magazine as Xiphion tingitanum (cf. synonymy). I. filifolia differs from I. tingitana in its broad, bluntly rounded standards and in its colour. It is perhaps one of the most striking of the Xiphium section. Its rich red-purple flowers are of a shade that is not found elsewhere. Another peculiarity is that the central orange patch is surrounded by a halo of blue. A microscopic examination reveals the fact that no blue pigment is present and that the blue colour is produced by a mixture of the orange and the red-purple cells, where the two colours run one into the other.

This Iris does not seem to be any more difficult to cultivate than the other members of the group. See p. 210. Its leaves shoot in autumn and yet plants from Spain, at any rate, have remained untouched by twenty degrees of frost, when the foliage of I. tingitana has been severely crippled. It does not flower until June.


Iris praecox; Xiphion filifolium, Klatt; Xiphion tingitanum, Hooker. ----

Chromosome counts

2n=32, Pérez & Pastor, 1994. ----


Iris filifolia cultivars: 'A. Bloemaard', 'Filifolia', 'Filifolia Alba', 'Filifolia Elizabeth', 'Filifolia Imperator', 'Filifolia Praecox', 'Latifolia', 'Queen Of Gazelles', 'Rex'.

filifolia edited-1.jpgfilifoliaBoissier.jpgfilifoliaCurtis1871.jpgfilifoliaSaxifraga-DirkHilbers.jpgfilifoliaSaxifraga-DirkHilbers2.jpgIris-filifolia-subsp.-filifolia-11.jpgIris-filifolia-subsp.-filifolia-21.jpg

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-- Main.RPries - 2009-12-01
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Iris-filifolia-subsp.-filifolia-11.jpgjpg Iris-filifolia-subsp.-filifolia-11.jpg manage 180 K 20 Jan 2015 - 17:34 BobPries Rafael Diez Dominguez photo
Iris-filifolia-subsp.-filifolia-21.jpgjpg Iris-filifolia-subsp.-filifolia-21.jpg manage 183 K 20 Jan 2015 - 17:35 BobPries Rafael Diez Dominguez photo
filifoliaBoissier.jpgjpg filifoliaBoissier.jpg manage 90 K 25 Jul 2016 - 20:04 BobPries Courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library
filifoliaCurtis1871.jpgjpg filifoliaCurtis1871.jpg manage 86 K 25 Jul 2016 - 20:06 BobPries  
filifoliaSaxifraga-DirkHilbers.jpgjpg filifoliaSaxifraga-DirkHilbers.jpg manage 75 K 08 Aug 2016 - 18:09 BobPries Dirk Hilbers photo
filifoliaSaxifraga-DirkHilbers2.jpgjpg filifoliaSaxifraga-DirkHilbers2.jpg manage 79 K 08 Aug 2016 - 18:10 BobPries Dirk Hilbers photo
filifolia_edited-1.jpgjpg filifolia_edited-1.jpg manage 33 K 01 Dec 2009 - 22:35 UnknownUser Plate from Dykes' Genus Iris
Topic revision: r9 - 01 Dec 2016, BobPries
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