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■ (SPEC) Iris histrio Reich.

1873, Botanical author Reichenbach

Iris histrio (Heinrich Reichenbach, 1873, Lebanon); Collected by Boissier on Mount Gherizin about 1861; A bulbous Iris in Subgenus Hermodactyloides.

See below: ----


Reichb. fil. Bot. Zeit. 388. 1872;
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, t. 6009-6073, vol. 99, ser. 3, vol. 29: t. 6033 (1873) (W.H. Fitch)I received plants of this beautiful species in a fresh state and in full flower, from Mr. Berberey of La Ferriere, near Geneva, early in March last, with his own and M. Boissier's request that it should be figured in the Botanical Magazine. Mr. Berberey further has had the goodness to inform me that it is the Iris Libani of his late lamented friend, M. Reuter's Mss., and was sent about ten years ago to M. Boissier by M. Gaillardot, who found it on Mount Lebanon and on Mount Grerizim, in Palestine; as also that its nearest ally is X reticulatum, M. Bieb. (Tab. nost. 5577, sub. Iris), from which it differs not only in structural characters, but in its paler colour, in flowering fully six weeks earlier, and in being inodorous.

A comparison with X. reticulatum shows that this is further abundantly different, in its much smaller size, copious finely-reticulated sheaths of the corm, much fewer shorter broader stout leaves often not exceeding the scape, broader spathes and differently shaped inner perianth-segments, which are notched at the tip. It is a very beautiful plant, but whether hardy in this country remains to be proved; as a pot plant it cannot fail to be highly prized.

Descr. Tufted, slender, rather flaccid. Corm ovoid, the size of a wren's egg, clothed with pale membranous sheaths, which are slightly reticulated in age. Sheaths of the scape and leaves (inner), three to five inches long, white, very membranous, obtuse or subacute, margins entire. Leaves a foot long, one-sixth of an inch in diameter, linear-subulate, acute, acutely 4-angled, with a deep angular groove upon each face, dark green. Scape very slender, not half the length of the leaves, clothed with sheaths, of which the upper are acute. Spathes very membranous, narrow, acuminate, white, nearly equalling the perianth-tube. Flower three inches in diameter. Perianth-tube three to four inches long, very slender, blue above; outer segments obovate-spathulate, spreading but not reflexed above the middle, claw narrow, blue with dark purple rib and veins externally; blade deep blue round the margins, fading to pale purple towards the faintly golden disk, which is streaked with purple veins, blotched with dark blue on the uppermost third ; inner segments shorter, paler, and more grey blue, erect, lanceolate-spathulate, margins quite entire. Stigmatic lobes half an inch long, spreading, rather distant above, dimidiate-ovate, acute, outer margins crenate, of the same colour as the inner perianth- segments. Ovary very narrow, ellipsoid. —J. D. H.
For more about Reticulata Irises see Alan McMurtrie's website
Krel. 1875;
The Garden. An illustrated weekly journal of horticulture in all its branches [ed. William Robinson], vol. 9: p. 29 (1876)This, when seen peeping through the ground in winter or early spring, reminds one of the common Netted Iris (I. reticulata) ; but its growth is rather taller, and the " fall petals " are broader and more conspicuously spotted, or rather blotched. Its colour is rich bluish-purple, flushed towards the base of the petals with rose-pink, the markings being of the deepest purple relieved by a medial ridge or crest of gold in the centre of the three external perianth segments. Its leaves are, like those of the Netted Iris, four-angled, and, like that beautiful plant, this also belongs to the bulbous group. When I first saw it pushing through the earth on an eastern border at Kew, in the winter of 1874, there was a little patch of snow beside the flower, and nothing could have set it off to better advantage than this, and a tuft of the vivid green Poa annua, with which it was also associated. This Iris is described as a native of Mount Lebanon and also of Mount Gerizim ; it was sent to Kew by M. Berberey, of La Ferriere, near Geneva, in March, 1873, who describes it as nearly related to I. reticulata, from which it differs not only in structural characters, but in flowering six weeks earlier than that species. We have now before us flowers of it even more delicately penciled and blotched than that lately figured in the " Botanical Magazine," and, while the flowers are there described as being inodorous, the blossoms thus freshly gathered are deliciously fragrant. Mr. P. Barr, from whom we have received the flowers in question, informs us that it has been in bloom with him for the last fortnight without having received any protection whatever. Its culture is by no means difficult. Treated like the last-named species it grows and blooms freely. Our engraving shows the size of the flower, and its colour as far as can be done by a wood-cut. This, with its allies, I. reticulata and I. stylosa, is well worth a place in sheltered positions in warm and deep rich soils and in every garden. B.
The Gardeners' Chronicle 3rd Ser. 12 72: 729. 17 Dec. 1892,
Van T. 1900; 1909; 1938; Grull. 1907; Wal. 1913;
Dykes, The Genus Iris Tab. 46, 226. 1913,
Rootstock , a slender bulb, with netted coats, like that of I. reticulata, but producing a large number of offsets at the base.
Leaves , quadrate, with four unequal sides and horny corners and tip, the first to appear being 6-8 in. long at flowering time.
Stem , very short.
Spathe valves , pointed, colourless, transparent, with a few green veins.
Pedicel , none, or very short.
Ovary , cylindrical, ½ in. long.
Tube , 3-4 in. long, colourless at the base, then becoming much spotted with reddish purple.
Falls , under suiface, of a greyish or greenish white, with the blotches and veins showing through; the edge of the blade is usually blue.
Upper suiface. The haft is separated from the ovate blade by a very slight constriction. The central yellowish ridge is not very prominent, and is marked with black tubercles at intervals. The haft is marked with branching blue veins, which towards the centre line become broken into dots. The edge and tip of the blade are deep blue, the central region being a creamy white marked with irregular scattered blue blotches, 2-2½ in. long by ¾ in. wide.
Standards , divergent, very nearly as long as the falls with a long canaliculate haft and a small oblanceolate blade.
Styles , becoming distinctly wider in the upper part, so as to be almost triangular, about an inch long, blue, with a well-marked keel.
Crests , large, 3/4 in. by 3/8 in., lanceolate rather than deltoid, blue, with radiating, deeper veins.
Stigma , bilobed, with rounded outline.
Filaments , expanding at the base, white, spotted with purple. Anthers , bluish, or white tinged with blue at the edges.</br Pollen , bluish white, of the characteristic reticulata type.
Capsule , cylindrical, an inch or more in length, with thin, papery walls.
Seeds , of the characteristic reticulata type.


Some of the difficulties encountered in trying to enumerate and locate the various varieties of this Iris have already been indicated in the introductory notes to the Retz'culata Section (see p. 220). Another difficulty is that the original description of the species will fit equally well either of two forms which, owing to the persistence of some of their characters, it seems best to separate. These characters are the direction of the standards and the appearance of the spathes.

If we may take the figure of I. histrio in Gard. Chron. 1892, 11. p. 729, and in Foster, Bulbous Irises, p. 8 (1892) as correct, then in I. histrio the standards are not held erect but incline outwards, and the narrow, greenish, tapering spathes only reach to some distance below the top of the tube (see Plate XLVI, Fig. 4). The closely allied form, in which the standards are erect and tend almost to fold inwards one over the other (see Plate XL V, Fig. 2 ), has longer spathes, in which the white ground between the green veins is much more prominent. At the same time I hardly feel justified in the present state of our knowledge in giving this form a specific name, nor have I been able to ascertain the locality from which it comes. Meanwhile the varietal name orthopetala will serve to distinguish it.

If it were not that the difference in the direction of the standards is always apparently accompanied by the difference in the spathes that has already been mentioned, I should be inclined to attach little importance to it, for I find that plants, which none would hesitate to call Krelagei', have no less than three forms of standard, incurved, erect and obliquely divergent. The variety atropurpurea has apparently remained unknown except for the few bulbs that I received from Marash in 1908. The intense black sheen on the dark red ground is most striking, and the black processes that top the central ridge in typical I. histrio here become longer and more glistening, while the yellow central ridge is wholly absent. Even the anthers and the filaments are stained with the same black-red colour, but in shape and growth this curious plant differs in no way from I. histrio, of which it is a mere colour variety. Up to the present, I have been unable to obtain seeds to decide the interesting question as to whether or no it would breed true to the red-black colour.
See the introductory notes on the reticulata section see reference at (Subgenus Hermodactyloides )
Amer. Col. 1933;
Hocker 1938; Stewart 1939;
F.C.C., R.H.S. 1888, shown by Paul; Hort. Dir. 30: 290. 1889;


Syrian Iris; Iris libani, Reuter; Iris reticulata var. Histrio, Fos.; Xiphion histrio, Curtis's Botanical Magazine. ----

Chromosome number:

2n=20, Johnson & Brandham. 1997. ----


Two subspeces: Cultivars of the species 'Aintabensis'; 'Histrio Alba'; 'Histrio Atropurpurea'; 'Histrio Orthoptera'; 'Perle De Jerusalem';




Distribution & Cultivation


Culture of Reticulata Group Irises

Quick Summary of Cultural Directions

Hardiness Zones 4-8 for most varieties, Some cultivars tolerate colder, others tolerate warmer zones (please comment in comment box with your location if this cultivar grows well in zone 3, 4, 9, or 10.)
Exposure Prefers full sun for optimal performance, may still bloom in half-day shade
Water: Prefers well drained good garden soil, Tolerant of dry conditions in established plants, Intolerant of swampy conditions.
PH Prefers Neutral to basic solis 6.1 to 8.5, quite toleranr of more extreme conditions
Fertilizer Prefers rich conditions on relatively inorganic soils.

-- Main.RPries - 2011-03-07


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-- Main.RPries - 2009-12-02
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Iris-histrio-11.jpgjpg Iris-histrio-11.jpg manage 55 K 21 Jan 2015 - 13:26 BobPries Ori Fragman-Sapir photo
Iris-histrio-21.jpgjpg Iris-histrio-21.jpg manage 188 K 21 Jan 2015 - 13:24 BobPries Rafael Diez Dominguez photo
Iris-histrio-31.jpgjpg Iris-histrio-31.jpg manage 178 K 21 Jan 2015 - 13:22 BobPries Rafael Diez Dominguez photo
Iris-histrio-41.jpgjpg Iris-histrio-41.jpg manage 174 K 21 Jan 2015 - 13:22 BobPries Rafael Diez Dominguez photo
Iris-histrio-61.jpgjpg Iris-histrio-61.jpg manage 132 K 21 Jan 2015 - 13:24 BobPries Ken Walker photo
Iris_histrio_KWW_1.JPGJPG Iris_histrio_KWW_1.JPG manage 78 K 30 Jan 2015 - 05:49 Main.KWalker Photo by Ken Walker
Iris_histrio_susb_histrio_KWW_2.jpgjpg Iris_histrio_susb_histrio_KWW_2.jpg manage 67 K 30 Jan 2015 - 06:04 Main.KWalker Photo by Ken Walker
histrio.jpgjpg histrio.jpg manage 23 K 02 Dec 2009 - 02:56 UnknownUser Plate from Dykes' The Genus Iris
Topic revision: r18 - 25 Dec 2021, BobPries
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