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■ (SPEC) Iris foetidissima L.

1753, botanical author Linneaus

Iris foetidissima L. (Carolus Linnaeus, 1753, Europe and North Africa); Section Limniris . Evergreen, 12-36" (30-90 cm); Flowers dull lilac blue or dull yellow; Brightly colored seeds displayed from open pods, either scarlet, yellow, or white;

See below:
14  foetid berries03-Carla Lankow photo.jpgFG-I-FOETIDISSIMA.jpgfoeti01.jpgfoetidissima01.jpgfoetidissima5.JPGfoetidissima50.JPGfoetidissima51.JPGfoetidissima52.JPGfoetidissima53.JPGfoetidissima9.JPGfoetidissima90.JPGfoetidissima91.JPGfoetidissima92.JPGfoetidissima93.JPGfoetidissima94.JPGfoetidissima95.JPGFoetidissima allthingsiris.jpgfoetidissima redoute 351 cropped.jpgFOETIDSEED02.jpggerrard foetidissima.jpgi-foetidissima-sdlg1-1-10.jpgI.foetidissima01.jpgI foetidissima-kwalker.jpgI foetidissima seeds-Ken Walker.jpgifoetidissima02.jpgifoetidissima4.jpgIFoetidissima9.jpg


Parkinson, Theat. Bot. 256. 1640, illustrated;
Gerrarde's Herbal
Four flower color for ms illustrated in color on page facing 73, The Iris Year Book1983;
Linnaeus in Species Plantarum ed. 1: 39. 1753 (note see #8 on page);
Reichb., Ic. Fl. Germ. 9: tab. 347. 1857, illustrated in color;
Redoute's Les Liliaceae
Dykes in The Genus Iris 1914 notes:

Rootstock , a somewhat slender, slow-growing rhizome.
Leaves , thick, evergreen of a somewhat dark shade, slightly glaucous at the base, ensiform, 12-18 in. long, i-1 in. broad.
Stem , about 2 ft. long, bearing 2 or 3 reduced clasping leaves and 2 or 3 heads of flowers.
Spathe , 2-3 flowered ; valves green, rigid, firm, lanceolate, about 3 in. long.
Pedicels , unequal in length, 1-3 in. long.
Ovary, trigonal with a groove at each angle and on each face, tapering slightly at either end.
Tube , about half an inch, rounded trigonal, separated by a constriction from the ovary.
Falls . The haft becomes gradually wider and is separated by a slight constriction from the obovate or nearly orbicular blade, which is slightly emarginate. The veining is always conspicuous in the purple flowered form. The colour is either a pale grey-purple with deeper purple veins or a pale straw yellow with greenish veins. 1-k-2 in. long by 1 in. broad.
Standards . The blade is emarginate and either oblanceolate or narrowly obovate, with a short canaliculate haft.
Styles , about an inch in length, growing suddenly wider in the upper part.
Crests, small, deltoid.
Stigma , bifid, with two pointed teeth.
Filaments , short.
Anthers, long, usually reaching the stigma or even projecting beyond it.
Pollen , cream.
Capsule , rounded trigonal, more or less distinctly six ribbed narrowing to a beaked point at the upper end, rt-2 in. long.
Seeds , globular, scarlet, remaining firmly attached after the capsule has dehisced.


This Iris, which derives its name from the disagreeable smell emitted by the bruised leaves, is very widely distributed and is one of our two native English Irises. The most common form bears flowers of a dull brownish purple but even in England a yellow form is found growing wild in Dorsetshire not far from Swanage and in the Isle of Wight. In this case the colour is a pale yellow tinged and veined with green. Another form is said to be finely veined with reddish brown on a dirty yellow ground. This latter may be that which is represented in Reich. le. Fl. Germ. t. CCCXLVII. fig. 775, but I have never seen any plant that had flowers in the least resembling this plate. The yellow-flowered form is also found in Sicily (cf. Tineo's specimen (V) from Le Madonie).

The flowers of this Iris are very inconspicuous except in the somewhat rare yellow-flowered forms and it is curious that no attempt to hybridise this species in order to produce an ornamental plant with evergreen leaves has ever been successful. Foster made many attempts but always without result.

The most conspicuous feature of this Iris, after its evergreen leaves, is formed by the open capsules displaying their orange-scarlet seeds throughout the winter. It is, as far as I know, the only Iris whose seeds remain attached to the placenta long after the capsules have burst. The seeds also are totally unlike those of any other species, and form a very ornamental winter decoration.

A form with variegated leaves has long been known in gardens. It should be noticed that the pale yellow part of each leaf is towards the centre of the tuft, thus showing that it is really the outer edge of the leaf' that is unreached by the green pigment.

The cultivation of this Iris presents no difficulty. It seems to have little preference in the matter of soil succeeding equally well in a limestone and in a limeless soil. It will grow in the shade of trees but does not flower freely unless it is in such a position that it gets a fair amount of sun. Seedlings grow very slowly and the whole plant is perhaps the most slow of increase of any Iris.

(1 Iris leaves are really closely folded down the centre, having their outer edges joined up except towards the base. The outer edges always turn towards the centre of the tuft of leaves.)
Van Tubergen 1900; 1938; Van Waveren 1907; Farr 1912; Wing 1920; Wallace 1934; Berry 1938; Perry 1938;


---- Synonyms; Gladwin Iris; Berried Iris; Iris foetida, Thunb.; Iris foetida, Bergeret; Gladdon; Roast Beef Iris; Spatula foetida, Besslr.; Stinking Gladdon (foliage has an unpleasant fragrance when bruised).

Chromosome Counts

Chromosome counts:2n=40, Wentworth et al., 1991; 2n=40, Colasante & Sauer, 1993; 2n=40 Pérez & Pastor, 1994.


Iris foetidissima L.
  • Var. citrina Syme
  • Var. lutescens Maire
Iris foetidissima cultivars: SpecBurgundyBlush, SpecFoetidissima Aurea, SpecFoetidissima Citrina, SpecFoetidissima Variegata, 'Foetidissima Fructo-Albo', 'Fructo-Aurea', 'Giant Chinese form', 'Golden Goblet', 'Lutescens', 'Moonshy', 'Nant Gwilw', 'Picos de Europa', 'Weber's Golden Nap', 'White flowered form', 'White seeded form', 'Yellow seeded form'


Iris foetidissima crosses: 'Weber's Golden Sunshine'

Other articles about foetidissima: The Garden 1874 (as indoor ornament); The Garden 1881, (two variations); The Garden 1879, (for berries)

Distribution and Cultivation

Distribution: Region: Azores, Western Europe to West & Central Mediteranean. including these countries; Great Britain, naturalized in Ireland, and Switzerland, Corsica, France, Portugal, Sardenia, Spain, Italy, Sicily, naturalized in Yugoslavia, Native to Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, The Azores, Naturalized in cny mdr Turkey, Tasmania, and California
Cultivation: Generally growing wild in woodlands, It can be grown in full sun in Northern Latitudes so long as it has lots of water and nutrients, Useful as an Iris that tolerates quite a bit of shade.

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-- Main.RPries - 2010-01-11
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
14__foetid_berries03-Carla_Lankow_photo.jpgjpg 14__foetid_berries03-Carla_Lankow_photo.jpg manage 65 K 30 Sep 2011 - 14:35 UnknownUser Carla Lankow Photo
FG-I-FOETIDISSIMA.jpgjpg FG-I-FOETIDISSIMA.jpg manage 26 K 19 Sep 2010 - 20:24 UnknownUser Lorena Reid photo
FOETIDSEED02.jpgjpg FOETIDSEED02.jpg manage 36 K 29 Sep 2010 - 16:45 UnknownUser  
Foetidissima_allthingsiris.jpgjpg Foetidissima_allthingsiris.jpg manage 27 K 11 Sep 2014 - 16:03 BobPries All Things Iris photo
I.foetidissima01.jpgjpg I.foetidissima01.jpg manage 86 K 22 Sep 2014 - 01:24 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the John Weiler slide collection
IFoetidissima9.jpgjpg IFoetidissima9.jpg manage 127 K 24 Nov 2021 - 03:05 Main.TLaurin Photo by Jean Claude Jacob-Iris de la Baie-France
I_foetidissima-kwalker.jpgjpg I_foetidissima-kwalker.jpg manage 49 K 11 Sep 2014 - 16:00 BobPries Ken Walker photo
I_foetidissima_seeds-Ken_Walker.jpgjpg I_foetidissima_seeds-Ken_Walker.jpg manage 38 K 11 Sep 2014 - 15:59 BobPries Ken Walker photo
foeti01.jpgjpg foeti01.jpg manage 49 K 25 Apr 2015 - 12:43 Main.TLaurin Photo by Aitken's Salmon Creek Garden
foetidissima01.jpgjpg foetidissima01.jpg manage 24 K 22 Jan 2014 - 16:36 Main.TLaurin Photo by Iris of Sissinghurst-United Kingdom
foetidissima5.JPGJPG foetidissima5.JPG manage 68 K 01 Oct 2023 - 01:42 Main.TLaurin Photo by John Jearrard -Jearrad's Herbal-United Kingdom
foetidissima50.JPGJPG foetidissima50.JPG manage 214 K 01 Oct 2023 - 01:42 Main.TLaurin Photo by John Jearrard -Jearrad's Herbal-United Kingdom
foetidissima51.JPGJPG foetidissima51.JPG manage 69 K 01 Oct 2023 - 01:42 Main.TLaurin Photo by John Jearrard -Jearrad's Herbal-United Kingdom
foetidissima52.JPGJPG foetidissima52.JPG manage 58 K 01 Oct 2023 - 01:44 Main.TLaurin Photo by John Jearrard -Jearrad's Herbal-United Kingdom
foetidissima53.JPGJPG foetidissima53.JPG manage 64 K 01 Oct 2023 - 01:43 Main.TLaurin Photo by John Jearrard -Jearrad's Herbal-United Kingdom
foetidissima9.JPGJPG foetidissima9.JPG manage 120 K 31 Dec 2023 - 16:46 Main.TLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
foetidissima90.JPGJPG foetidissima90.JPG manage 172 K 31 Dec 2023 - 16:46 Main.TLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
foetidissima91.JPGJPG foetidissima91.JPG manage 190 K 31 Dec 2023 - 16:47 Main.TLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
foetidissima92.JPGJPG foetidissima92.JPG manage 110 K 31 Dec 2023 - 16:47 Main.TLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
foetidissima93.JPGJPG foetidissima93.JPG manage 184 K 31 Dec 2023 - 16:47 Main.TLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
foetidissima94.JPGJPG foetidissima94.JPG manage 129 K 31 Dec 2023 - 16:47 Main.TLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
foetidissima95.JPGJPG foetidissima95.JPG manage 243 K 31 Dec 2023 - 16:47 Main.TLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
foetidissima_redoute_351_cropped.jpgjpg foetidissima_redoute_351_cropped.jpg manage 94 K 11 Sep 2014 - 14:50 BobPries Redoute
gerrard_foetidissima.jpgjpg gerrard_foetidissima.jpg manage 111 K 11 Sep 2014 - 14:18 BobPries Gerards herbal
i-foetidissima-sdlg1-1-10.jpgjpg i-foetidissima-sdlg1-1-10.jpg manage 37 K 09 Jul 2010 - 18:37 Main.mikeu Seedling from I. foetidissima citrina by Mike Unser
ifoetidissima02.jpgjpg ifoetidissima02.jpg manage 18 K 11 Sep 2014 - 16:13 Main.TLaurin Photo by Seagate Irises-United Kingdom
ifoetidissima4.jpgjpg ifoetidissima4.jpg manage 50 K 10 Oct 2013 - 18:54 Main.TLaurin Photo by Alla Chernoguz-Ukraine
Topic revision: r40 - 06 Jan 2024, Harloiris
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