Spanish iris etc

Jim McKenney
Sat, 22 Jul 2006 08:29:50 PDT
Thanks to Mary Sue and Rafa Diez for keeping the ball rolling on these
issues. I can't wait to see the images of the wild irises. 

But no, the text as written does not address my concerns. 

The term Spanish iris historically has been used (commonly since at least
the nineteenth century) to refer not to any wild iris but to those garden
irises derived primarily (most accounts imply exclusively) from Iris

In a sense, it was the development of the so-called Dutch irises in the very
late nineteenth century or early twentieth century (I don't know precisely
when, but the hybrids were well known by the end of the first decade of the
twentieth century) which reinforced the significance of the distinction to
be maintained between the old Spanish iris group of garden origin and the
then new Dutch irises. These old Spanish irises of garden origin have been
grown since at least the late sixteenth century, the reign of Elizabeth I of
England and the time of Shakespeare. Because Iris xiphium itself is native
from northwestern Africa to Portugal and Spain and southern France, it's a
variable plant. 

It's worth noting that Grey in his Hardy Bulbs gives the parentage of the
Dutch irises as Iris xiphium and "an earlier-flowering stronger growing
form, found in the neighborhood of Gibraltar" - in other words, another form
of Iris xiphium; if this is true, then at least some of these early Dutch
irises were not (nominally at least) inter-specific hybrids at all. 

On the other hand, there seems to be no doubt that some, perhaps most, of
the plants which emerged as Dutch iris later are truly of inter-specific
hybrid origin. 

We still need a name for the group as a whole.

To reiterate, "Spanish irises" is not suitable because that term has a long
history of use in reference to a particular group of garden irises. 

This larger group in question includes not only these old garden irises, but
also their wild progenitors and related species, most of which related
species presumably did not play a role in the development of the garden
Spanish irises.  

An old group name is available: Xiphion. But that term invites confusion
with "xiphium". 

How about "Xiphions: the western Mediterranean bulbous irises"? 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where I'm still sharpening my
xiphion on these issues.  


-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Mary Sue Ittner
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2006 10:24 AM
To: Pacific Bulb Society
Subject: Re: [pbs] Spanish iris etc

List member Rafa Diez from Spain has kindly written me with information for 
the wiki Spanish Iris page so I have added it.…

Will this address your concerns Jim (McKenney) so I won't have to rename 
the page and change the links? Rafa also sent some pictures from a friend 
illustrating some of these species so if we get permission to add them to 
the wiki, when Susan has time, she will downsize them and add them.

Thanks Rafa for your help.

Mary Sue

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