Spanish iris

Jim McKenney
Thu, 20 Jul 2006 17:58:48 PDT
I happened to be checking the wiki page for iris recently, and I noticed
something which raises a question or two for me. The irises include a
category called "Spanish irises". 

Curious to see what this might include, I followed the link and saw that it
included bulbous irises with Iris xiphium, I. latifolia and related species
in their ancestry. 

To use wiki parlance, it's time for some disambiguation. 

Historically, the term "Spanish iris" referred to those garden plants
derived from Iris xiphium. This term "Spanish iris" still appears in
catalogs, although I frankly wonder if true Spanish iris still exist as
commercial entitles.

One mass distribution catalog which offered "Spanish irises" for years used
an illustration of Iris korolkowii to depict the "Spanish irises". I often
wondered what people who ordered those got: did they get Iris korolkowii
(given the price, I doubt it) or did they get true Spanish irises? 

Spanish irises and Dutch irises are not the same. I would not rule out the
possibility that the true Spanish irises might not simply be cultivars of
Iris xiphium (i.e. they might have some other related species in their
background, species other than I. latifolia). And as a horticultural group,
they and the Dutch irises are distinct: in particular, according to the
older books the Spanish irises bloom later than the Dutch irises and are
smaller and more delicate. 

I've never seen a Spanish iris. 

Does anyone know if true Spanish irises are still in commerce? I know that
the name still appears in catalogs, but has anyone actually received true
Spanish irises from a commercial source in recent years? Jane Mc Gary
mentioned in a recent post that she grows Iris xiphium itself. My question
is: does anyone still grow the Iris xiphium cultivars of garden origin?

The last time I ordered Spanish irises I received English irises, Iris
latifolia, (the plant long known as Iris xiphioides). Instead of the small
bulbs of Spanish irises, I got these huge English iris bulbs. No one, to my
knowledge, has successfully grown English irises here in the middle Atlantic

Now back to what started this for me: what would be a suitable name for
irises of this group? If we call them "Spanish irises", that term will lose
its historical significance. And some are Portuguese rather than Spanish.
"Iberian irises" does not quite work: some members of the group are north
African. They are bulbous, but so too are the reticulates and junos, so
"bulbous irises" is not sufficiently specific. 

Any thoughts?

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where I'm sorting bulbs dug
for the summer.  

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