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The Iris Family: Genus Iris

The genus Iris is the predominant member of the Iridaceae family in the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 300 species worldwide, occurring in North America, Asia and Europe. At least one species, Iris setosa, is circumpolar, occurring in Sibera and in Canada.

Different Iris species are native to every environment, from woodland to desert to swamp to steppe and tundra.

This genus is often broken up into several genera, such as Juno for the juno irises, but we will treat these as subgeneric groups of the genus Iris. The most common garden iris have been the bearded hybrids, often called Iris x-germanica. Other common types of iris found in gardens are Siberian iris hybrids derived from Iris sibirica, and Japanese iris hybrids derived from Iris ensata. In some areas, hybrids of the several species of Louisiana irises are grown in gardens.

In eastern North America, the crested iris, Iris cristata, grows in woodlands. Two species of iris, I. virginica and I. versicolor, grow in eastern North America in open, wet or boggy areas. I. virginica is found in the southern portion of their range, and I. versicolor is found in the northern part.

Iris winogradowii A rare and beautiful dwarf Iris of early Springtime is Iris winogradowii, native to Central Asia and a member of the Reticulata group. (Top view of I. winogradowii) The plants shown were obtained from Janis Ruksans' Bulb Nursery in Latvia.
Iris collettii Iris collettii is from China. This plant was grown from seed collected by the Alaska Rock Garden Society 2000 seed expedition to Yunnan, China. The flower reaches about 4 inches (10 cm.) in height and is roughly 1.5 inches (ca. 35 - 40 mm) in diameter. It lasts but one day. Bloom season seems to be late May or early June.
Iris versicolor Iris versicolor is a native of Eastern North America. The flower is 3 to 4 inches across (ca. 9 - 10 cm.) carried on a stalk 25 - 28 inches tall (ca. 65 - 70 cm.) with 2 or 3 branches. These plants were grown from seed collected in the wild east of Lake of Woods, Gameland, ONT., Canada, and distributed by SIGNA, The Species Iris Group of North America.

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For information about this account, contact:
James E. Shields,
Last revised: 09 January 2010
© Copyright 2010 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.