Neomarica is a genus of South and Central American plants in the Iridaceae family that have a rhizomatous rootstock. The genus was established in 1928 and includes plants previously known as Marica and Galanthea. In Brazil the native name used for these plants is Marica. There is a strong similarity of flower morphology between Trimezia, Cipura and Cypella but the latter two belong into tribe Tigridieae as can be identified by the pleated leaves and true bulbs. Still, the same species may have been listed at one time under any of these genera. The main perceived morphological difference between the closer related Neomarica and Trimezia is that the axis ("stem") is flat in Neomarica and round in Trimezia. The sexual parts are identical.
These closely related genera are still subject to taxonomical discussion: Lindolpho Capellari Junior revised this genus in 2000 (Revisão taxonomica do genero Neomarica Sprague (Tribo Mariceae, Subfamilia Iridoideae, Iridaceae) and some of the information on this page comes from a translation of his work. More information can be found by downloading his revision. It is written in Portuguese. More recently, most genera in tribe Mariceae (or Trimezieae as others put it, so not even the tribe is fixed) have been found to be not monophyletic (Lovo et al. 2012), which has inspired further studies and a reclassification into 5 genera based on both morphological and genetic evidence (Lovo et al. 2018). However as of December 2019, Plants of the world online sinks all members of the Tribe into Trimezia, reducing Neomarica to synonym status. We will not reorder our pages until this discussion has settled.
Most of the species need warm conditions and high humidity to thrive and ample water during their flowering season. They grow in shade in subtropical areas in the wild. They come from regions where the soils are extremely well drained (they can also be found in a thick layer of forest debris). Such soils are red, acid, high in iron and aluminum and notoriously low in "normal" nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, etc.
Seed sowing advice from Alberto Castillo for Neomarica caerulea, Neomarica candida and Neomarica northiana: These grow in very hot conditions, say like in Honolulu! Deep shade to dappled sun. Sow now (October Northern hemisphere) and always keep warm. Evergreen foliage. Water less in winter. Flowers in Spring.
Also see Hannelore Goos' website for more information on culture.
Neomarica caerulea is native to Brazil, a large evergreen plant with bright sky-blue or bluish-lilac short-lived flowers. Given warm conditions and regular water, it is long blooming. If grown in a pot, it needs a very deep one and protection from snails. It grows in full sun or shade. Photos 1-2 from Tarcísio Eduardo Raduenz, photos 3-4 from Pieter van der Walt, and photo 5 from Andrew Harvie.
Neomarica gracilis is from Mexico and Costa Rica south to Brazil. This species is sometimes called the "walking iris" but this name may also be used for some of the other species. It has short lived ivory flowers with reddish-brown transverse bars on the claw. The inner segments are smaller with reflexed tips and blue. It blooms in summer and appreciates shade. It has leaves with prominent veins and a stem that is forked below the apex. It is distinguished from other white flowered species, bearing its flowers on long (gracile) peduncles, (the stems connecting the whole flowering business to the scape) and pedicels (the individual flower stems) – many times longer than the enveloping bract. Photo by Andrew Harvie.
Neomarica guttata was described by Capellari in the document cited above as a new species that grows from 30 to 50 cm and is localized to the city of Itanhaem, Brazil. It grows in the shade, receiving only a few hours of diffuse sunlight each day. The flower is distinctive in having lilac dots on the white sepals. This name does not yet appear in any of the major data bases as a published name. It appears to be cultivated by a number of individuals. Photo by Alessandro Marinello.
Neomarica longifolia is a species growing to 1 meter from southeastern Brazil where it grows in light shade in the Atlantic Forest. According to Clive Innes' book leaves are bluish-green, flat, leathery, broad and up to 30 cm. The stems are erect, stiff, and wiry. The 5 cm flowers are lemon yellow. The outer segments have transverse bars of purplish brown on the claw and the inner segments have brownish or beige tips. Most of the plants people are growing under this name are really Trimezia steyermarkii. For a photo of this species, see Mauro Peixoto's web site.
Neomarica northiana is from Brazil and has white flowers becoming yellowish with brown markings at the base. Inner segments are recurved and marked bluish-purple. Leaves are fan-like, and flat. The stem is flattened and continues above the inflorescence as a leaf-like bract. Young plants form at the tip bending over and rooting giving it a common name of Walking Iris. It is easily confused with Neomarica candida, which is only half the size (40-80 cm) and whose tepals are not yellowish at the base. Photos 1-3 by David Ehrlich of plant obtained from Yucca-Do. Photo 4 from Andrew Harvie.
Neomarica sp. Photos by Tarcísio Eduardo Raduenz. Although the flowers on this plant resemble N. caerulea the fruits are different. The fruit of Neomarica caerulea and Neomarica candida open longitudinally when mature. The fruit of Neomarica sp. opens only in the superior extremity.
Much of this information supplied by members of the PBS list in November 2006.