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■ (SPEC) 'Sophenensis' now Iris sophenensis (Foster) B.Mathew & Güner

1885, Foster


'Sophenensis' ( Sir Michael Foster, 1885-Amasia). Section Hermodactyloides; Reticulata; Color Code-BL;Light blue; "Flowers are deep violet-blue with little veining or spotting and they have a yellow ridge on the falls"-- Mathew's The Iris. There has been some speculation that this is actually a separate species. The original description was first published by Foster as a var. of Iris reticulata. It appeared in The Gardeners' Chronicle p. 470, April 11, 1885.

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first published by Foster as a var. of Iris reticulata. It appeared in The Gardeners' Chronicle p. 470, April 11, 1885 and is as follows:

"In October last Mrs. Barnum, of the Mission, Kharput, Asia Minor, kindly sent me bulbs, gathered from the sides of the hills near Kharput. The bulbs themselves did not seem to me to be in any essential respect different from those of ordinary I. reticulata, but their flowers, which appeared on February 14, proved that I had obtained a new distinct variety of the species.

The form is not very different from that of the type, but the claw of the fall is distinctly narrower than the lamina, instead of being nearly as wide, and the lamina is elliptical, ending broadly and obtusely instead of being pointed. The standards are relatively to their length broader than the type in the lamina, which also ends obtusely, and the claw is more distinctly canaliculate. The style is more decidedly triangular, with crests more divergent than in the type. The falls are more spreading than in the type, making an angle of a few degrees only with the horizontal, whereas in both the type and the Krelagei variety this angle is nearly 45°. The standards instead of being vertically erect diverge somewhat outwards; and the whole flower is small, and especially dwarf, reaching only 2 ½ or 3 inches from the ground, the tube and spathe-valves together being about 1 ½ inch long.

In colour the plant is very distinct both from the blue-purple type and the red-purple Krelagei. The lamina of the fall is of a light reddish-purple, marked in the median line by a low ridge of an orange-yellow hue, not so bright or full as in the type. Along the claw this ridge or signal is continued as a low wavy yellow crest, marked by dark spots. On each side of this crest is a yellow band marked with dark purple spots, and from this band veins diverge, bluish purple at first, but becoming redder near the edge where they are cofluent into a reddish-purple ground. The standards are of a reddish-lilac, with hardly visible veins.

The styles have a very peculiar colour. The upper surface for about the median half is a blue with a peculiar metallic sheen; this on each side gradually changes into a light reddish-purple. Veins of a similar blue are seen on the median side of the upper surface of the crests, which are otherwise of a reddish-purple. The under-surface of the styles is similarly blue in the middle and reddish-purple at the edges. The anthers and pollen are of a dead white.

The leaves are tetragonal, quite similar to those of reticulata; but these either do not appear until after the flower; which thus arises naked from the ground, gaurded by the spathe valves and sheath only, or acquire at most the height of an inch or so at flowering time, whereas both in the type and in Krelagei the leaves are several inches high at flowering time, generally overtopping the flowers, and in I. Histrio they are higher still.

The differences of form mentioned above do not seem to be very great, yet they– especially with the differences of color, the short stature and the absence of leaves–suffice to give the plant so distinct an appearance that everyone on seeing it would say it was something new. Still, for reasons which I will give in a subsequent note on the whole reticulata group, I conclude that the plant ought not to be considered as a new species, but as a new and distinct variety, or at most a subspecies; and I propose accordingly to call it I. reticulata var. sophenensis, from Sophene, the old name for the district around Kharput.

As a garden plant viewed with regard to beauty, it is distinctly inferior to the type, and inferior to better forms of the Krelagei variety. And it is not at all fragrant. Still its peculiar colouring, its dwarf habit, and even the absence of foliage at flowering time, give it a charm of its own."
Iris sophenensis (Foster) B.Mathew & Güner in A.Güner & al. (eds.), Türk. Bitkileri List.: 539 (2012). acknowledged as a separate species by Kew World Checklist
For more about Reticulata Irises see Alan McMurtrie's website


Krelage & Sons 1892; synonyms; Iris reticulata var. sophenensis Foster; Iris histrioides sophenensis (Foster) Dykes. [Iris histrioides (G.F. Wilson) S. Arnott].
Iris reticulata var. sophenensis Foster, Gard. Chron., n.s., 23: 470 (1885).
Iris histrioides var. sophenensis (Foster) Dykes, Gen. Iris: 225 (1913).
Iridodictyum sophenensis (Foster) M.B.Crespo, Mart.-Azorín & Mavrodiev, Phytotaxa 232: 61 (2015).

Chromosome counts



Crosses with Iris sophenensis:

Distribution and Cultivation

Distribution: Region:


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 - 2011-03-07
Topic revision: r13 - 25 Dec 2021, BobPries
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