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■ (SPEC) Iris sambucina L. or see also TB 'Sambucina'

1759, Botanical author Linneaus

The first botanist referring to "elder scented" (odore sambuci) irises was Carolus Clusius around 1600, who gathered irises from his fellow botanists (from Brussels, Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Eichstätt) to found the botanical garden of the new university of Leyden in Holland. He gave a thorough description of each of his 30 irises (reorganised later by Gaspard Bauhin). The irises in question are basically the following:
No 8 iris germanica odore sambuci
No 9 iris belgica odore sambuci
No 11 iris belgica odore sambuci altera

Linnaeus seems to be the author of the name "sambucina". Under the reference of Clusius's no 8 he oddly described iris no 9. Did he try to describe one species instead of three varieties, which would explain this contraction?

This situation led to some kind of argument around 1800 between Curtis and Redouté.
The first presented no 11 as sole genuine sambucina in his Botanical Magazine whereas the second insisted on no 9 in Les Liliacées (where he gives word to the dispute). Curtis's choice may be explained by the long tradition of the reddish sambucina in England as this illustration from a book of hours (London early 16C) accounts for.

Nonetheless, the three irises originally described as elder scented genuinely correspond to the name sambucina.

Attention. Following Curtis's publication, no 11 prevailed over the two other forms in the English speaking countries, even giving its name to a color scheme (reddish bitone) until the 1930s, like variegata or plicata. Therefore, the cultivars following this color scheme should not be confused with the three original sambucinas; Elder fragrance. [probably hybrids of Iris variegata L. and Iris pallida Lam.].

See below:
No 11 Brit Lib - Man Royal 1 E V f.3 London 1509.jpgNo 11 iris sambucina belgica altera (1).jpgNo 11 iris sambucina belgica altera.jpgNo 11 sam bel alt Botanical Magazine vol. 6 (187).jpgNo 11 Vélins du MNHN, Paris, N. Robert 1665.jpgNo 8 A. Dürer 1508 Kunsthalle Bremen.jpgNo 8 iris sambucina germanica (1).jpgNo 8 iris sambucina germanica.jpgNo 9 iris sambucina belgica (1).jpgNo 9 iris sambucina belgica.jpgNo 9 Redouté Les Liliacées p. 338-339.jpgSambucina.JPGsambucina04.JPGsambucina1.jpgsambucina14.jpg


No. 8 Blaublühende Schwertlilie A. Dürer 1508 Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany

No 11No 11 - Curtis's Botanical Magazine 6: tab. 187, This species of Iris, said to be a native of the South of Europe, derives its name from the smell of its flowers, which very much refembles that of elder in bloom. It is one of the tallest and handsomest: of the genus, in a rich moist soil acquiring the height of three feet or more ; It is therefore more proper for the shrubbery than the flower- garden. It flowers about the latter end of May, and is readily increased by parting its roots in autumn. The Iris of Parkinson, referred to in the synonyms, accords fo exactly with our plant, in every circumstance but smell, which is not mentioned, that we have no doubt but it was cultivated in our gardens in his time.
Dykes in the Genus Iris 1913, Observations.[On sambucina & squalens] It seems impossible to give any satisfactory account of these two Irises. Their history is not at all clear and we may perhaps be permitted to infer that Linnaeus had some doubt as to their claim to specific rank from the fact that he did not include them in his first edition of the Species Plantarum. It is only in the tenth edition of the Systema (1759) that we find described on p. 863 an Iris no. 3 A under the name of I. sambucina and no. 3 B under that of I. squalens. They are only distinguished in one point, namely in the character of the falls (sambucina "petalis deflexis planis; squalens petals deflexis replicatis "). The meagre descriptions given were presumably felt to be inadequate, for in the second edition of the Species Plantarum (1762) on p. 55 they are amplified and made less vague.We gather from this account that I. sambucina had violet or bluish flowers with bluish style branches, while in I. squalens the yellow-white veins on the bluish ground of the falls were more marked and the standards and style branches of a dingy yellow.This description of I. sambucina agrees fairly well with the plate in Reichenbach's Icones cccxxxv fig. 762, which is also mentioned by Hausmann Flora von Tirol (l.c.) as representing a plant that grows near Bozen. This plant I have obtained and cultivated and if the identification is correct, then the description may be further amplified as follows. Leaves , with purple colouration at the base. Stem , much branched, and many flowered, for even the lateral branches bear 3 flowers. Spathes , 1½ in. long, largely but not wholly scarious. Pedicel , none in the case of the two outer flowers in each spathe but ¼ in. long in the case of the centre flower, which is the last to bloom. Ovary, ½ in. with six grooves at equal intervals. Tube , ¾ in. Falls , obovate-cuneate ; the blade much veined with deep bluish-purple on a grey-white ground; the veins coalesce towards the tip of the blade. On the haft the veins are rather brown-purple on a yellow-white ground. The beard is orange. Standards , obovate with short canaliculate haft ; the blade of a dingy yellowish-purple and the haft veined with brown-purple on yellow. Styles , dingy yellow with a sharp blue-purple keel. Crests , large, broadly triangular, of the same mixed colour as the standards.
Stigma , entire. Filaments , white, tinged with faint lavender. Anthers , small cream. Pollen , cream. Capsule and pollen not seen, because the plant appears to be usually sterile.Observations.The plant just described is not that usually grown as I. sambucina and it sometimes appears under the name of I. lurida, e.g. in the Caen Botanic Garden, but it is probably the plant that was the subject of Linnaeus' description.I. squalens is said in the original description to differ by having standards and styles of a squalid yellow colour. The falls are veined with yellow-white on a bluish ground. Such a form exists in gardens and so does also another in which the bluish ground is replaced by red-purple. The plant already described as I. sambucz'na is so similar to both of these except in colour, which in Irises is a character the reverse of reliable, that it is impossible to look upon them except as hybrid forms and we must acknowledge that further investigation and breeding experiments are necessary before the mystery of their origin can be cleared up.[N.B. It is not quite clear whether the Bozen plants must be looked upon as really wild or as probable escapes from cultivation. With the specimens that I received came two other plants of much dwarfer growth. In one the standards are clear yellow and in the other of a murky yellow. In both the falls are veined with claret-red on a yellowish-white ground. These plants are quite different from what I take to be /. squalens, being much dwarfer and having a much less ample inflorescence. I understand that these plants now grow near Bozen with that described as I. sambucina.]On the whole I am inclined to think that the two plants that Linnaeus described as I. sambucina and /. squalens were both hybrids of I. pallida and I. variegata. They are intermediate in many ways between these two species, e.g. in the spathes and in the colour, and the leaves die down in winter as do those of both the supposed parents. The fact that forms closely resembling I. sambucina and I. squalens have been obtained from crosses between I. plicata and I. variegata seems to support this view, for I. plicata is only apparently an example of I. pallida in which some factor is present that prevents the purple colour from appearing except at the edges of the segments. See also p. 234.
Listed by Dickson 1794
Red. Lilac. 6: tab. 338. 1811,
Listed by Prince 1923; Hend. 1877;
Gardeners' Chronicle vol 20, page 373, 1883 Iris variegata Hybrids with Pallida
Journal of The Royal Horticultural Society 15: 3. Oct. 1899
Listed by Farr 1912; Wing 1920; Vilm. 1938



Chromosome counts

2n=24 ----


'Dinar Mountains' ----


Oncocyclus crosses 'Paracina'; 'Parsam' Tall-bearded Hybrids 'Cordon Bleu'; 'Laura Emerson Sturtevant'; 'Prospero'; 'Quaker' ----

Distribution and Cultivation

Distribution: Region:

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-- Main.RPries - 2009-12-10
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
No 11 Brit Lib - Man Royal 1 E V f.3 London 1509.jpgjpg No 11 Brit Lib - Man Royal 1 E V f.3 London 1509.jpg manage 489 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:24 PascalJordan No 11 sam bel alt - British Library - Manuscripts - Royal 1 E V f.3 London 1509
No 11 Vélins du MNHN, Paris, N. Robert 1665.jpgjpg No 11 Vélins du MNHN, Paris, N. Robert 1665.jpg manage 268 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:21 PascalJordan No 11 Vélins du MNHN, Paris, N. Robert 1665
No 11 iris sambucina belgica altera (1).jpgjpg No 11 iris sambucina belgica altera (1).jpg manage 816 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:22 PascalJordan No 11 iris sambucina belgica altera
No 11 iris sambucina belgica altera.jpgjpg No 11 iris sambucina belgica altera.jpg manage 87 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:22 PascalJordan No 11 iris sambucina belgica altera
No 11 sam bel alt Botanical Magazine vol. 6 (187).jpgjpg No 11 sam bel alt Botanical Magazine vol. 6 (187).jpg manage 46 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:19 PascalJordan No 11 sambucina belgica altera Botanical Magazine vol. 6 (187)
No 8 A. Dürer 1508 Kunsthalle Bremen.jpgjpg No 8 A. Dürer 1508 Kunsthalle Bremen.jpg manage 1015 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:10 PascalJordan No 8 Iris sambucina germanica - A. Dürer 1508 Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany
No 8 iris sambucina germanica (1).jpgjpg No 8 iris sambucina germanica (1).jpg manage 49 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:12 PascalJordan No 8 iris sambucina germanica
No 8 iris sambucina germanica.jpgjpg No 8 iris sambucina germanica.jpg manage 68 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:11 PascalJordan No 8 iris sambucina germanica
No 9 Redouté Les Liliacées p. 338-339.jpgjpg No 9 Redouté Les Liliacées p. 338-339.jpg manage 290 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:14 PascalJordan No 9 Redouté Les Liliacées 1804 p. 338-339
No 9 iris sambucina belgica (1).jpgjpg No 9 iris sambucina belgica (1).jpg manage 829 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:16 PascalJordan No 9 iris sambucina belgica
No 9 iris sambucina belgica.jpgjpg No 9 iris sambucina belgica.jpg manage 556 K 26 Jun 2021 - 12:16 PascalJordan No 9 iris sambucina belgica
Sambucina.JPGJPG Sambucina.JPG manage 73 K 30 Jan 2011 - 16:08 IrisP No 8 iris sambucina germanica
sambucina04.JPGJPG sambucina04.JPG manage 370 K 29 Apr 2019 - 22:40 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Carol Lankow slide collection
sambucina1.jpgjpg sambucina1.jpg manage 251 K 06 Jun 2018 - 21:11 UnknownUser Photo by Sandy Gessner Eggertson-Merlebleu Iris Garden-Manitoba,Canada
sambucina14.jpgjpg sambucina14.jpg manage 107 K 09 Jul 2021 - 15:29 UnknownUser Photo by Sandor Szasz-Iriszkert-Hungary
Topic revision: r26 - 29 Mar 2022, TLaurin
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