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The Development of Black Tall-Bearded Irises (under construction)

From the "The World of Irises" Chapter 4 by Melba B Hamblen and Keith Keppel. © 1978 AIS


The Sass brothers saved dark segregates from their blue and violet lines and began intercrossing them, introducing ‘The Black Douglas’ in 1934. Meanwhile, Nicholls (1933) was working a line of darks. He used ‘Valor’, of his own raising, with ‘The Black Douglas’ to produce ‘Black Valor’. 'Valor', combined with a seedling involving ‘Morning Splendor’, 'Souv. De Madame Gaudichau', and ‘Alcazar’ gave ‘Mata Hari’ and ‘Smolder’, both dark purples, the latter with a reddish underglow. The cross of these two siblings gave ‘Storm King’, introduced in 1940.

 Paul Cook crossed 'Blue Boy', an I. aphylla derivative, with a white diploid. Crossing the resultant seedling into a line of purplish reds from the dark ‘Cinnabar’ and bitoned ‘Seminole’, he continued to line breed and was rewarded with ‘Sable’ several generations later. Often referred to simply as "the black iris;' this famous variety astounded the iris world when it was first marketed in 1938.

‘Blue Boy' (1913) TBBlue Boy ‘Cinnabar' (1928) TBCinnabar ‘Seminole' (1920) TBSeminole ‘Sable' (1936) TBSable

The Schreiners had crossed 'The Black Douglas' with a dark seedling from red breeding, and this cross resulted in ‘Ethiop Queen’, introduced the same year as Cook's 'Sable’. ‘Ethiop Queen’, crossed onto ‘Dymia’, gave ‘Black Forest’, short of stature but with a depth of blackness previously unknown in the eupogons. It is interesting to note that a parent of ‘Dymia’ is ‘Harmony’, a satiny dark blue purple with dark beard thought to be out of I. aphylla. Contemporary thinking is that I. aphylla carries a factor that intensifies color in its seedlings (Schreiner 1958). ----


It was 1945 when ‘Black Forest’ was introduced. This key iris from the Schreiner line, in combination with Nicholls's ‘Storm King’ and Cook's ‘Sable’, formed a powerful triumvirate which shaped the development of later blacks.

Cook continued his 'Sable' line for many generations, not in pure form, which seemed to give no further advancement, but rather in outcrosses to other dark varieties. Using various combinations with ‘Valor’, ‘Modoc’ (which comes from ‘Alcazar’ and 'Souv. De Madame Gaudichau), ‘Black Forest’, ‘Black Wings’ and his own black lines, he originated a series of improved blacks. Of these, ‘Deep Black’, ‘Dark Boatman’, and the 1955 Dykes Medal winner ‘Sable Night’ are the best known.

‘Black Wings' (1930) TBBlack Wings ‘Deep Black' (1955) TBDeep Black ‘Dark Boatman' (1953) TBDark Boatman ‘Sable Night' (1952) TBSable Night

The year following ‘Black Forest's debut, Orville Fay introduced a blue-bearded dark blue named ‘Gulf Stream’. Its parentage is of interest, as it came from ‘Dymia’, the parent of ‘Black Forest’, and ‘Narain’. ‘Narain’ is a seedling of ‘Blue Boy’; ‘Gulf Stream’ therefore has aphylla on both sides of its pedigree. ‘Black Valor’, ‘Gulf Stream’, and ‘Black Forest’ are behind ‘Black Hills’. Later Fay blacks include ‘Total Eclipse’ and ‘Black Swan’, the latter being an outcross of the Fay line to Cook's ‘Sable Night’.

‘Blue Boy' (1913) TBBlue Boy ‘Black Hills' (1951) TBBlack Hills ‘Total Eclipse' (1956) TBTotal Eclipse ‘Black Swan' (1960) TBBlack Swan

Work with the Schreiner dark violet and black line has continued through the present time. ‘Storm Warning’, ‘Licorice Stick’, ‘Prince Indigo’, ‘Night Owl’ and ‘Royal Touch’ are but a few examples of good irises in this color grouping. Plough also has produced an interesting dark line. Utilizing the red 'Great Day' with 'Sable Night', he obtained 'Edenite', a large, rather globular flower of glowing red black. This iris served as the launching point for a line of darks including 'Study In Black', 'Swahili', 'Black Market' and 'Interpol'.

Walt Luihn used Gaulter's 'Basin Street', from 'Storm Warning' and Sable Night, with 'Total Eclipse' to produce 'Dark Fury', which, with 'Black Swan', gave 'Dusky Dancer'. Behind Hager's 'Basic Black' are 'Black Swan', 'Basin Street', and 'Storm Warning'. 'Dark Fury' mated with a seedling whose ancestors included 'Storm King', 'Sable Night', 'Black Hills', and 'Blue Spinel', a descendant of 'Blue Boy' via 'Narain' and 'Danube Wave', gave Jim Gibson the very dark 'Opening Night'.

‘Dark Fury' (1958) TBDark Fury ‘Dusky Dancer' (1967) TBDusky Dancer ‘Basic Black' (1967) TBBasic Black ‘Opening Night' (1967) TBOpening Night

====================================================================================================== The World of Irises continues with The Pallida Pinks ====================================================================================================== ----

Galleries of Black Irises

For more information on historic Irises visit the Historic Iris Preservation Society at

-- BobPries - 2015-10-14
Topic revision: r14 - 04 May 2024, DougChyz
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