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■ (SPEC) Iris unguicularis Poir.

1785, Botanical author Poiret

Iris unguicularis Poiret (Jean-Louis Marie Poiret, 1785, Algeria Greece Asia Minor etc.); Section Limniris, Series unguiculares; Color Code B1M; Typical flower medium blue;

See below:
Carla Lankow photoRick Tasco photoKen Walker photoPaul Tyerman photoKen Walker photoKen Walker photoPaul Tyerman photoPhoto by Christine Skelmersdale-Broadleigh Gardens-United KingdomPhoto by Wild Ginger FarmPhoto by Matilija NurseryPhoto by Matilija NurseryPhoto by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain Irisallthingsiris photoKen Walker photoKen Walker photoPhoto by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain IrisPhoto by Superstition Iris GardensPhoto by Chad Harris of Mt. Pleasant Iris FarmPhoto by Chad Harris of Mt. Pleasant Iris FarmPhoto by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain IrisPhoto by Iris of Sissinghurst,UKPhoto by Carol S Price-Standards   Falls IrisPhoto by Carol S Price-Standards   Falls IrisPhoto by Carol S Price-Standards   Falls IrisPhoto by Carol S Price-Standards   Falls IrisPhoto by Matilija NurseryPhoto by Christine Cosi-FranceUnguicularis from DykesPries photoBob Plank photoPhoto by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain IrisPhoto by Matilija NurseryPhoto by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain Iris


Voy. Barb. 2: 86. 1785; Fl. Atlantica 1798;
Curtis's Botanical Magazine 95; tab. 5773. 1869,;A very beautiful and sweet-scented spring flowering Iris, for which the Boyal Gardens are indebted to Mrs. Bodichon of Algiers. It has been referred by Alefeld to his genus Neubeckia, the characters of which, as given by Klatt in his revision of the order Iridete quoted above, seem to me of very doubtful generic value, depending mainly, if not altogether, on a very variable character — viz., the length of the tube of the perianth, " elongate " in Neubeckia, and " short," in Iris. A further diagnostic character is given to Neubeckia, in the persistent septum of the anthers, but this, if not accompanied by characters of higher importance, is not enough to found a genus upon. Klatt refers the I. longispatha of this work (Table 2528) doubtfully to this species; Ledebour, however (Flora Kossica, v. iv. p. 95), identifies the I. longispatha with I. biglumis, Vahl, a Dahurian and Siberian species, of a very different habit.
I. stylosa is a native of the hedges of Algeria, and is also found in Corfu and the Morea ; it was first published, without a specific name, in 1789, by Poiret, in his Voyage en Barbarie, v. ii. p. 96, and afterwards, first as I. stylosa, by Desfontaines in 1798, and then as I. unguicularis by Poiret, in 1799.
Descr. Rhizome creeping, as thick as the thumb, pale, and with pale brown membranous sheaths. Leaves one to one and a half foot long, one-sixth to one-third of an inch broad, erect, slender, flat, thin, striated, attenuated to long sharp points, bright green, shorter or longer than the scapes. Scape erect, slender, sheathed by slender appressed spathes, one-flowered. Ovary narrow, slender, one inch or more long. Flowers sweet-scented, two to two and a half inches diameter. Claws of the perianth segments yellowish, veined with red-purple, one and a half inch long, gradually dilating into broadly oblong spathulate, subequal, entire, obtuse, unbearded laminae ; outer leaflets recurved, pale violet, mottled below the middle with pale yellow, and with a strong deep yellow central band ; inner rounded at the top, apiculate, of a uniform pale violet colour. Stigmas deeply cleft into linear lobes which are acutely 2-fid at the apex, and usually single toothed on the outer margin. —J. D. H. May 1st, 1869.
Anderson, E. B., (1971), Iris unguicularis. Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, 96(8): 368-369.
Van T. 1900 as stylosa; 1938;
Gardeners' Chronicle, April 22, p251-252, 1911;
Dykes, The Genus Iris 54. 1913,Observations.
There seems to be no good reason for separating the Greek and Asia Minor forms of this Iris from the Algerian plant as distinct species. When Janka first described his I. cretensis, he was so intent on showing that it was not I. humilis-a plant from the Caucasus described by Bieberstein, under which name Sieber had wrongly identified his specimens from Crete, that he altogether forgot to mention I. unguicularis. In any case he would probably have found it difficult to give any differentia beyond mere size by which to separate his I. cretensis from I. unguicularis. For indeed there is no other real difference, and even Algerian specimens have leaves varying from 1-2 ft. in length and from 1/8-3/8 in. in breadth. Attempts have been made to separate them on the ground that the spathes of I. cretensis are more scarious than those of· I. unguicularis, whereas the truth is that the spathes of both are equally membranous and scarcely at all scarious. This is also the case with examples from Asia Minor (cf. Foster MS. in Hb. K.), from one of which the Bot. Mag. t. 6343 was prepared. It is undoubtedly true that the Greek plant is usually smaller than the Algerian but the two agree in possessing so many characters that are peculiar to them among Irises that they cannot reasonably be separated. They have in common the leathery linear foliage, the long perianth tube and above all the curious processes on the style branches that occur nowhere else among Irises. To the naked eye this looks like gold dust scattered over the back of the style branches. Under the microscope, however, we see transparent spheres poised on the top of equally transparent blunt cones. At some point inside the sphere there is a mass of golden dust-like grains and it is to these masses that the colour is due.
As far as can be ascertained from herbarium specimens, the Asia Minor form of this Iris has even narrower and more grassy leaves than the Greek (cf. Forbes' Lycian and Whittall's Smyrna specimens (K)) and I have in cultivation such a form which may well be an Asiatic example. The leaves are certainly narrower, more erect and grass-like than the somewhat horizontal fan-like growth of some plants which were obtained for me from the island of Cephalonia. On the other hand such specimens as Zahn's from Kalamata (B) show that there is considerable variation among the Greek forms. It is curious that both the Greek and the Asia Minor plants agree in not coming into flower until March or April, whereas the Algerian type flowers during mild weather at any time between November and April. This might, however, have been deduced a priori from the difference in climate.
Attempts have been made to separate the eastern and western forms specifically on differences in the shape of the falls and in the amount of division in the style crests. It is, however, difficult to attach any great value to these supposed differences, for variation in both these points will be found among seedlings obtained by self-fertilising the typical Algerian I. unguicularis. So far as my experience of the somewhat shy-flowering Eastern forms goes, the Greek plants more closely resemble the Algerian than do those from Asia Minor. The flowers of my plants from Cephalonia are practically identical with those of the Algerian type but only one-third as large. On the other hand, if a form of uncertain origin, sometimes to be obtained under the name of I. agrostifolia' may be taken to agree with herbarium specimens from Asia Minor, the flowers of the latter have more gradually expanding and more pointed fall blades. The white ground between the purple veins is much more visible on the blade and extends irregularly almost to the circumference, which is often edged with white. In such cases, the effect is strikingly delicate and attractive.
Much more real differences separate the variety lazica from all the other forms of the plant. Although it comes from almost the extreme Eastern end of the range of the species, whose leaves seem to diminish in width as we trace it from West to East, yet its foliage is broader and more distinctly ensiform-as opposed to linear-than that of any other form. Another point of real difference lies in the green spathe valves and in the much more sharply keeled outer valve. The tube, too, is not more than about 4 inches long. Moreover the stem is always produced to the length of 3-4 inches and it is not uncommon for the stems to be produced in pairs. If the var. lazzi:a only differed from typical I. ungu£cularis in the production of a stem, we could hardly separate them, for Bot. Mag. t. 577 3 and Tribout's specimen (C) from Caroubiers, Bone, show that other forms occasionally produce stems. My own plants of I. lazica have not yet flowered and to the kindness of Mr C. G. van Tubergen of Haarlem. veining on the blade was more conspicuous than that usually I owe the specimens that I have seen The colour was a dark purple and the seen on Algerian plants. In this respect lazica resembles Asia Minor forms much more closely, for in all the examples that I have seen the veining is continued over nearly the whole of the blade of the falls.
There are several garden varieties' of I. unguicularis, and these include more than one white form', of which some are certainly more floriferous than others. When the type is raised from seed, several slight variations in colour and markings occur and the various garden forms were probably obtained in this way.
There is, however, one very distinct form, known as speciosa. In my experience, this does not come into flower until March and its flowers have a fragrance quite distinct from that of the type and resembling that of the Sweet Pea. The foliage is dwarf, so that the flowers stand well above it. The blooms are of a deep reddish shade of purple and the peculiar ring of swellings where the bases of the segments of the flowers merge into the tube is not present, as far as I know, in any other form. It would be no surprise to find that this form is a local variety coming originally from Greece. In a warm dry climate, the cultivation of I. unguicularis presents no difficulty. In spring and early summer growth should be encouraged by unstinted moisture and even weak liquid manure•. After midsummer, at the latest, the plants should be allowed to roast in the sun and it will usually be found that the more thorough this process is, the larger will be the crop of flowers in the ensuing season. In obtaining this annual roasting, a position at the foot of a south wall is almost essential in England and if this south wall happens to be that of a greenhouse, with warm pipes on the inner side, the production of flowers will be less liable to cessation during frosty weather. In some rich damp soils, the growth of the plants is never ripened off in summer and, in such cases, the main hope of success lies in the construction of a raised bed against a south wall. The soil should be rendered light and porous by the plentiful addition of old mortar rubble. Sharp drainage is, of course, essential. Following the rule that Irises should be transplanted, when root-growth is about to begin, it will be found that there are two seasons at which this is possible, namely in April or September. It is a mistake to break up large clumps, for small pieces seldom flower. With a judicious top dressing in spring of a little good soil or very old manure, it will be found that the plants can be grown for years in the same position without exhausting the soil within reach of the roots.
Seeds are freely produced in most seasons and germinate readily. The seedlings grow fairly rapidly and begin to flower in their third or fourth year. I am inclined to think that home-raised seedlings are often hardier than imported plants. At any rate the severe frosts of 1911 killed all the buds-and they were very numerous-on a number of plants from the south of France that had been established for more than a year. Not one flower subsequently developed and yet dissection of the shoots showed large numbers of immature buds destroyed by the frost. On the other hand, some home-raised seedlings, although they ceased flowering during the cold weather, subsequently threw up more blooms.
In frosty weather, the clumps should be protected from the early morning sun, whose rays falling on the frosted plants seem far more destructive than the frost itself. I. unguicularis is well adapted for cultivation in large pots or pans. These should be sunk in the ground in some sheltered position during the spring and early summer and growth should be encouraged at that season by occasional waterings with weak liquid manure. From July onwards until about the end of September, the growths should be ripened by withholding excessive moisture and plants thus grown should flower abundantly, if brought into a cool house for the winter.
Barr 1938 Berry 1938; A. Gard. M., R.H.S. 1924; J.R. H.S. 1927, shown by Rothschild as Stylosa;


Algerian Iris; Iris agrostifolia; Cretensis, Baker; Iris cretensis Bois.; Iris cretica Herb.; Iris humilis Sieber.; Ioniris stylosa; Neubeckia stylosa, Alef.; Stilosa; stylosa; Iris stylosa angustifolia Bois. Siphonostylis W. Schulze. Fragrance of primroses.

Chromosome counts

2n=40,50, Davis & Jury, 1990.


Iris unguicularis Poiret.
  • subsp. unguicularis Davis & Jury..
  • subsp. cretensis (Janka) Davis & Jury
  • subsp. carica (W. Schultze) Davis & Jury
    • var. carica (W. Schultze) Davis & Jury.
    • var. angustifolia (Boiss. & Heldr.) Davis & Jury
    • var. syriaca (W. Schultze) Davis & Jury.
Iris unguicularis cultivars: 'Abington Purple', 'Agrostifolia', 'Alba', 'Angustifolia', 'Atroviolacea', 'Bob Thompson', 'Bonchurch Variety', 'Bowles' White', 'Bridal Pink', 'Bunty', 'Carica', 'Cephalonica', 'City Of Sails', 'Cretensis' 'Cretensis Alba', 'Cypria', 'Dazzling Eyes', 'December Joy', 'Dr. Barnard's Form', 'Edith Cleaves', 'Ellis's Variety', 'Fée D'Hiver', 'Francis Wormesley', 'Gay', 'Graeca', 'Grandiflora', 'Greek White', 'Imperatrice Elizabetta', 'Kaiserin Elizabeth', 'Kilbroney/Kilbroney Marble', 'Kilndown', 'Lake of Tiberias Form', 'Large Flowered Stylosa', 'Light Marbled', 'Lindsayae', 'Magician's Magic', 'Marbeled' 'Marginata' 'Mary Barnard' 'Oxford Dwarf' 'Pavonia' 'Peacock', 'Purple Snow', 'Purple Trinity'; 'Purpurea' 'Starker's Pink, 'Stavordale Tiger', 'Syriaca', 'Stylosa Altaflora'; 'Stylosa Marginalis', 'Stylosa Superba', 'Teignbelle', 'Teigngrace', 'Teressa', 'Unguicularis Alba', 'Unguicularis Lilacina', 'Unguicularis Marginata', 'Unguicularis Speciosa', 'Unguicularis Violacea', 'Ventnor Form' 'Violacea' 'Violet Crescent', 'Walter Butt' 'Winter Gay', 'Winter Goldback', 'Winter Memories', 'Winter Mystery', 'Winter Snowflake', 'Winter Treasure', 'Wylam's Discovery', 'Zzyzx'.


Iris unguicularis hybrids: 'Unguicularis Peacock'.

Distribution and Cultivation

Further Reading

Library search for Unguicularis

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-- BobPries - 2010-02-18
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Iris-unguicularis-theresa.jpgjpg Iris-unguicularis-theresa.jpg manage 29 K 14 Jul 2016 - 18:09 BobPries Carla Lankow photo
Iris-unguicularisKenwalker.jpgjpg Iris-unguicularisKenwalker.jpg manage 50 K 14 Jul 2016 - 18:17 BobPries Ken Walker photo
Iris-unguicularisTyremann.jpgjpg Iris-unguicularisTyremann.jpg manage 73 K 14 Jul 2016 - 18:20 BobPries Paul Tyerman photo
Iris-unguicularisWalker2.jpgjpg Iris-unguicularisWalker2.jpg manage 43 K 14 Jul 2016 - 18:27 BobPries Ken Walker photo
Iris-unguicularisWalker3.jpgjpg Iris-unguicularisWalker3.jpg manage 48 K 14 Jul 2016 - 18:38 BobPries Ken Walker photo
Iris-unguicularisWalterButt.jpgjpg Iris-unguicularisWalterButt.jpg manage 69 K 14 Jul 2016 - 18:22 BobPries Paul Tyerman photo
Iris-unguicularisdazlingEyes.jpgjpg Iris-unguicularisdazlingEyes.jpg manage 63 K 14 Jul 2016 - 18:09 BobPries Rick Tasco photo
Unguicularis_from_Dykes.jpgjpg Unguicularis_from_Dykes.jpg manage 61 K 20 Apr 2010 - 13:16 BobPries Unguicularis from Dykes' Genus iris
Unguicularis_reduced.jpgjpg Unguicularis_reduced.jpg manage 34 K 15 Sep 2010 - 17:22 BobPries Bob Plank photo
irisunguicoxforddwarf9.jpgjpg irisunguicoxforddwarf9.jpg manage 90 K 23 Apr 2021 - 02:04 TerryLaurin Photo by Christine Skelmersdale-Broadleigh Gardens-United Kingdom
irisunguicularis5.jpegjpeg irisunguicularis5.jpeg manage 64 K 03 Feb 2023 - 03:02 TerryLaurin Photo by Wild Ginger Farm
ungilarius9.jpgjpg ungilarius9.jpg manage 72 K 19 Dec 2013 - 17:06 TerryLaurin Photo by Matilija Nursery
unguialaris7.jpgjpg unguialaris7.jpg manage 101 K 19 Sep 2013 - 19:41 TerryLaurin Photo by Matilija Nursery
unguiclaris05.jpgjpg unguiclaris05.jpg manage 163 K 02 Feb 2016 - 23:52 TerryLaurin Photo by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain Iris
unguiculares_allthingsiris.jpgjpg unguiculares_allthingsiris.jpg manage 44 K 03 Sep 2010 - 01:18 BobPries allthingsiris photo
unguicularis-flower1Ken_Walker.jpgjpg unguicularis-flower1Ken_Walker.jpg manage 50 K 03 Sep 2010 - 01:19 BobPries Ken Walker photo
unguicularis-style-tube_Ken_Walker.jpgjpg unguicularis-style-tube_Ken_Walker.jpg manage 38 K 03 Sep 2010 - 01:20 BobPries Ken Walker photo
unguicularis01.jpgjpg unguicularis01.jpg manage 116 K 19 Feb 2018 - 02:30 TerryLaurin Photo by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain Iris
unguicularis02.jpgjpg unguicularis02.jpg manage 306 K 02 Feb 2018 - 03:44 TerryLaurin Photo by Superstition Iris Gardens
unguicularis03.jpgjpg unguicularis03.jpg manage 131 K 07 Mar 2016 - 14:44 TerryLaurin Photo by Chad Harris of Mt. Pleasant Iris Farm
unguicularis04.jpgjpg unguicularis04.jpg manage 108 K 07 Mar 2016 - 14:52 TerryLaurin Photo by Chad Harris of Mt. Pleasant Iris Farm
unguicularis1.jpgjpg unguicularis1.jpg manage 125 K 08 Mar 2017 - 12:07 TerryLaurin Photo by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain Iris
unguicularis10.jpgjpg unguicularis10.jpg manage 25 K 22 Jan 2014 - 20:16 TerryLaurin Photo by Iris of Sissinghurst,UK
unguicularis5.JPGJPG unguicularis5.JPG manage 247 K 26 Sep 2023 - 01:45 TerryLaurin Photo by Carol S Price-Standards & Falls Iris
unguicularis50.JPGJPG unguicularis50.JPG manage 252 K 26 Sep 2023 - 01:45 TerryLaurin Photo by Carol S Price-Standards & Falls Iris
unguicularis51.JPGJPG unguicularis51.JPG manage 249 K 26 Sep 2023 - 01:45 TerryLaurin Photo by Carol S Price-Standards & Falls Iris
unguicularis52.JPGJPG unguicularis52.JPG manage 337 K 26 Sep 2023 - 01:46 TerryLaurin Photo by Carol S Price-Standards & Falls Iris
unguicularis8.jpgjpg unguicularis8.jpg manage 115 K 19 Sep 2013 - 23:56 TerryLaurin Photo by Matilija Nursery
unguicularis9.JPGJPG unguicularis9.JPG manage 192 K 15 Feb 2021 - 13:08 TerryLaurin Photo by Christine Cosi-France
unguicularis_pries.jpgjpg unguicularis_pries.jpg manage 56 K 03 Sep 2010 - 01:19 BobPries Pries photo
unguiicularis4.jpgjpg unguiicularis4.jpg manage 127 K 06 Dec 2016 - 12:56 TerryLaurin Photo by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain Iris
unguiularius01.jpgjpg unguiularius01.jpg manage 94 K 05 Jan 2015 - 12:20 TerryLaurin Photo by Matilija Nursery
ungularius06.jpgjpg ungularius06.jpg manage 109 K 29 Jan 2019 - 12:21 TerryLaurin Photo by Howard Dash-Picacho Mountain Iris
Topic revision: r53 - 26 Sep 2023, TerryLaurin
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