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Iris variegata

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Iris variegata is a species in the genus Iris, also in the subgenus Iris. It is a rhizomatous perennial from eastern Europe. It has dark green, ribbed leaves. The branched flowering stems can be as tall as the leaves, they can hold 2–3 flowers in summer. They are yellowish-white, with brown-purple veins on the drooping falls. It is very hardy and it is commonly cultivated as an ornamental plant in temperate regions. There are several cultivars.


Iris variegata has often been confused for Iris pallida 'Argentea Variegata, which has variegated leaves. But Iris variegata has variegated flowers.<ref name=stebbings/>

It has stout rhizome,<ref name=CZiris>Template:Cite web</ref> with roots that can go up to 10 cm deep in the ground.<ref name=Kewiris/>

It has leaves that are around 1–3 cm wide,<ref name=Kewiris/><ref name=RHS/> dark green, ribbed leaves.<ref name=perennial/> They are slightly falcate (sword shaped).<ref name=Kewiris/><ref name=india/>

It can be variable in height in the wild (30–45 cm).<ref name=alpine>Template:Cite web</ref> Generally, it grows up to 45 cm (18 in) high,<ref name=Kewiris/><ref name=ClaireAustin/><ref name=stebbings/> The branched flowering stems can be as tall as the leaves.<ref name=cassidy/><ref name=india/> There are normally 2–3 flowers per stem.<ref name=india/> The scentless flowers<ref name=stebbings/> appear in early summer,<ref name=alpine/> May – June.<ref name=perennial/><ref name=dykes/><ref name=CZiris/>

The perianth tube is 2–2.5 cm long. The flowers are yellowish-white, with brown-purple veins on the falls. The flowers are generally about 5–7 cm wide.<ref name=stebbings/><ref name=alpine/><ref name=RHS>Template:Cite book</ref> The falls are obovate-oblong shaped and nearly 2 cm wide, yellow with purple or chestnut brown veins, which are darker closer to the apex.<ref name=india/> It has a yellow beard in the centre on the lower part of the fall, the standards are erect,<ref name=india/> (vary in colour)<ref name=ClaireAustin/> from pale yellow<ref name=alpine/> to bright yellow<ref name=cassidy/> and gold.<ref name=ClaireAustin/>

It has a seed capsule measuring 2.2–2.8 cm long by 1–1.3 cm wide, with 6 ribs along the edge.<ref name=india/>


As most irises are diploid, having two sets of chromosomes. This can be used to identify hybrids and classification of groupings.<ref name=ClaireAustin/> It has a chromosome count: 2n=24.<ref name=america/>


It is commonly known as the 'Hungarian iris'.<ref name=Kewiris>Template:Cite web</ref><ref name=america>Template:Cite web</ref> It is known as 'skäggiris' in Swedish.<ref name=grin>Template:GRIN</ref>

It was once known as Iris hungarica.<ref>Robert Sweet Template:Google books</ref> which also applies to Iris aphylla subsp. hungarica.

It was described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus<ref>Kelly D. Norris Template:Google books</ref> in 'Species Plantarum' (on 1 May 1753).<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Between 1800 and 1850, several Iris breeders (including Lémon, Jacques and Salter), started breeding border irises for the garden. These irises were all the progeny of two species, Iris pallida and Iris variegata.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> It was William Rickatson Dykes who worked out that these were the parents of most hybrids,<ref name=cassidy>Template:Cite book</ref> especially those bi-coloured hybrids.<ref name=perennial>Template:Cite book</ref> These new irises were known as 'Tall Bearded Irises'.<ref name=ClaireAustin>Template:Cite web</ref> In the wild, hybrids of Iris pallida and Iris variegata are very similar to Iris germanica.<ref name=stebbings>Template:Cite book</ref>

Hundreds of hybrids exist representing every colour from jet black to sparkling whites. The only colour really missing is bright scarlet. Many modern garden bearded irises are crosses of 'Iris germanica' and Iris variegata.<ref name=Kewiris/>

Iris variegata is an accepted name by the RHS,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> and it was verified by United States Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service on 4 April 2003, then updated on 20 April 2009.<ref name=grin/>

Distribution and habitat

It is native to parts of Europe.<ref name=grin/>


Iris variegata is found in the Pannonian (ancient Roman province) region of central Europe.<ref name=stebbings/> It occurs in southern Moravia, southern Slovakia, south-western Germany,<ref name=grin/> southern Romania, Bulgaria,<ref name=grin/> western Ukraine,<ref name=perennial/><ref name=CZiris/> Croatia, Czechoslovakia,<ref name=CZiris/> Serbia, Hungary and Vienna, Austria .<ref name=dykes/><ref name=grin/>

It has been introduced into Switzerland, Bohemia and Italy.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


It prefers to grow in open stony areas<ref name=ClaireAustin/> and amongst scrub and light woodland,<ref name=alpine/> and also on the sunny slopes of the steppes and beside forest margins.<ref name=CZiris/>


It is an 'endangered' and protected species in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.<ref name=CZiris/>


It is extremely hardy, as after flowering, its leaves die entirely away in the autumn and the plants remain dormant, until the spring when it regrows leaves and stems.<ref name=dykes>Template:Cite web</ref> It is best cultivated in well drained fertile soils, but is tolerant of partial shade.<ref name=perennial/>

It can be easily grown in gardens in Kashmir.<ref name=india>Template:Cite web</ref>

Lifting, dividing and replanting the rhizomes is best done once flowering has finished, because this is when the plant grows the new shoots that will flower the following year. The rhizomes are placed on the surface of the soil facing towards the sun and with at least 45 cm of open ground in front of them – this allows two years growth and flowering. The plant is held in place by removing half the leaf mass to reduce wind rock and by using the old roots as anchors in the soil. The rhizome is placed on well dug ground and the roots placed either side into 10 cm deep grooves. The soil is then gently firmed around the roots, so holding the plant steady. New roots and leaves are created rapidly as the rhizome moves forwards.<ref name=ClaireAustin/>

It also can be propagated by seed.<ref name=Kewiris/>


  • 'Staten Island' (registered in 1945),<ref name=stebbings/>
  • 'Gracchus' (1884),<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • 'Mary Vernon' (1940)<ref name=stebbings/>

Known variants

  • Iris variegata var. Reginae (white flowers with purple and violet veining),<ref name=stebbings/> which was collected in Hungary in 1947.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Iris amoena (white standards, lilac/mauve falls),<ref name=stebbings/>
  • Iris variagate var. pontica,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


See also




  • Aldén, B., S. Ryman & M. Hjertson. 2009. Våra kulturväxters namn – ursprung och användning. Formas, Stockholm (Handbook on Swedish cultivated and utility plants, their names and origin).
  • Czerepanov, S. K. 1995. Vascular plants of Russia and adjacent states (the former USSR).
  • Komarov, V. L. et al., eds. 1934–1964. Flora SSSR.
  • Mathew, B. 1981. The Iris. 22–23.
  • Tutin, T. G. et al., eds. 1964–1980. Flora europaea.

External links

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