Iris germanica L. - German Iris, Blue Flag Iris

Iris germanica plant

Family - Iridaceae

Stems - Aerial stems to +60cm tall, longer than the leaves, glabrous, glaucous, erect, herbaceous, simple, from somewhat flattened rhizomes.

Leaves - Basal and cauline. Basal leaves to +/-40cm long, +/-3cm broad, glabrous, glaucous, acute, entire, with a thin scarious margin. Cauline leaves reduced, folded around the stem.

Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary sessile flowers. Flowers subtended by a reduced foliaceous bract. Bracts to 6cm long, foliaceous in the basal half and scarious in the apical half, often with a reddish tinge in the apical 1/3.

Iris germanica bractBract of inflorescence.

Flowers - Fragrant. Sepals 3, spreading to recurved, obovate, 8-12cm long, 5-6cm broad at the apex, glabrous except for conspicuous beard of hairs along inner midrib, obovate, white to violet. Beard of papillate hairs. Hairs 3mm long white to yellow or with some purple, segmented. Petals 3, erect and folding over fertile floral organs, to +8cm long, -6cm broad, broadly obovate to rotund, glabrous. Style branches (stigmas) 3, +/-4cm long, +/-2cm broad, with and obvious midvein, receptive only on the adaxial surface. The apical portion 2-lobed, erose. Stamens tucked underneath the style branches (on the abaxial side). Anthers to 1.5cm long. Filaments glabrous, to 2cm long. Floral tube +/-2cm long, glabrous, greenish and typically with some mottled color. Ovary at the base of the floral tube, 6-valved, -2cm long, 7-8mm in diameter, 3-locular. Placentation axile.

Iris germanica flowerFlower.

Iris germanica flowerWhite flower.

Iris germanica beardBeard.

Iris germanica beardClose-up.

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Roadsides, railroads, old homesites. Commonly cultivated.

Origin - Probably native to southern Europe.

Other info. - This striking species can be found escaped in scattered localities throughout Missouri. It is a widely cultivated plant and many cultivars exist. The plants can vary somewhat in size and greatly in flower color. Flowers can range from white to yellow or red to violet. The way to differentiate this species from others is by the well developed aerial stems, the bearded flowers, and the foliaceous bracts that subtended the flowers. The bracts should only be scarious in the apical half at most. Plants which share the other characteristics but have completely scarious bracts are I. pallida Lam.

Photographs taken in Columbia, MO., 4-25-04.


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