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■ (SPEC) Iris tuberosa L.

1753, Botanical author Linneaus

Iris tuberosa L. (Carolus Linnaeus, 1753, Mediterranean areas-southeastern France and northern Africa to Isreal); Subgenus Hermodactyloides . 8-16" (20-40 cm); Overall a translucent green (yellowish or bronze forms also known) falls with reflexed velvet brownish-violet blades.

See below:


Linn. Species Plantarum 38. 1753;
Bonelli, Giorgio, Hortus Romanus juxta Systema Tournefortianum, vol. 6: t. 67 (1783-1816)
For more about Reticulata Irises see Alan McMurtrie's website
Redoute's Les Liliaceae
Ker-Gawler in Curtis's Botanical Magazine (1801),describes Iris Tuberosa, Snake's-Head Iris or Velvet Fleur-De-Luce, table 531 as; "This species of Iris, readily distinguished from every other by its quadrangular leaves, is more remarkable for the singularity than for the beauty of its flowers; yet, to some might not apt to be caught by gaudy attire, these sombre tints have their charms. In this respect it strongly contrasts with our next figure.
It is a native of the Levant, and with respect to the cold in our climate is perfectly hardy, flowers best, according to Miller, in an eastern aspect, and if the soil be light it would be proper to put some rubbish at the bottom to prevent its roots descending too deep, in which case the seldom produce flowers.
It blossoms in April or May, rarely produces seed with ease but is easily propagated by offsets from the roots, which can be taken up when the leaves decay, but should not be left long out of the ground."
Icones Floraegerm
English Botany, vol.9, 1869. Rhizome an oblong-cylindrlcal horizontal cormo-tuber, the old tuber perishing after flowering. Stem cylindrical, shorter than the leaves,simple. Leaves appearing in winter and dying off in early summer, very long, slender, sharply quadrangular, tapering to the point, dull glaucous green, dim. Spathe terminal, elongate, acuminate, herbaceous, with an extremely narrow scarious margin. Flowers solitary. Pedicel much longer than the ovary when the flower is expanded. Free portion of the perianth tube narrowly cylindrical, shorter than the ovary. Sepals oblong-oblanceolate, the claw broad, slightly folded, erect, constricted where it is joined to the lamina; lamina much shorter and scarcely broader than the claw, oval, notched at the apex, sharply reflexed, not bearded. Petals about one-third the length of the sepals, and half the length of the stigmas, erect, lanceolate-spathulate, acuminated into a very slender point. Capsule 1 -celled, oblong-fusiform, bluntly trigonous, with six furrows.Seeds subglobular, when dry with a hard fuscous reticulated testa and a small whitish strophiole at the hilum.In orchards and hedgebimks. Not native, but said to be naturalised in Cornwall and South Devon. The specimen figured in " English Botany Suppl." was sent by the Rev. Henry Pennick from Penzance, who found the plant in considerable plenty in several places four or five miles apart in that neighbourhood: Mr. F. P. Pascoe assured me it was quite naturalised in that part of Cornwall; and Mr. T. B. Flower has specimens from Kingsbridge, S. Devon, obtained by him in 1860, when the plant was in some abundance there. It is reported from Cork; but in the " Flora of Cork " it is said to be not even naturalised there.[England, Ireland?] Perennial Spring.Rootstock a corrao-tuber about the thickness of a man's finger, 1 1/2 to 3 inches long, frequently dividing from the base into two or three branches, from the extremity of each of which a stem or tuft of leaves is sent up : close to the apical bud lateral buds are produced, and in autumn the parent tuber dies away, setting free the tubers produced from these buds cither separately or connected together at the base. Flowering stem 9 inches to 1 foot high, sheathed at the base, and producing from the axils of the sheaths several very long tetragonal leaves sheathing at the base, and about twice as long as the flowering stem. Spathe longer than the pedicels, and frequently exceeding the flower. Flowers H to 2 inches across, remarkable for the claws of the sepals being connivent, and nearly erect. Claw of the sepals pale green, yellowish on the back, with a few dark veins; lamina dull lurid blue, almost black. Petals greenish-white. Stigmas nearly erect, with the lobes acuminate. Seeds rather larger than sweet-pea seeds; but I have only seen them in a dried condition


Synonyms. Snake's Head Iris, Widow Iris. Hermodactylus tuberosus
Although originally named Iris tuberosa in recent years it was placed in its own genus Hermodactylus because of its amorphous subterranian rhizomes. Recently Brian Mathew observed that seedling first produce a tiny true bulb like Iris reticulata but very soon start to develop this rhizome which replaces the bulb as the overwintering storage organ. After that Goldblatt and Mabberley returned it to the genus Iris.


There are few named variations: For further information color variations see Service, N., (1996), "Natural variation in Hermodactylus tuberosus, the widow iris". The New Plantsman, vol. 3, part 2 June 1996, p. 75-79.


As yet there are no known hybrids as of 2016. But it is likely that I. tuberosa would cross with other Reticulata species.

Distribution and Cultivation

Distribution: Region:
Cultivation: Full sun, .

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-- BobPries - 2010-02-08
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Iris_tuberosa_48.jpgjpg Iris_tuberosa_48.jpg manage 41 K 12 Dec 2014 - 18:55 BobPries Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library
TuberosaHortusRomanus.jpgjpg TuberosaHortusRomanus.jpg manage 177 K 25 Oct 2016 - 11:30 BobPries  
iconesfloraegerm_Iris_tuberosa.jpgjpg iconesfloraegerm_Iris_tuberosa.jpg manage 52 K 09 Aug 2012 - 20:11 BobPries Iris tuberosa
iristuberosa01.jpgjpg iristuberosa01.jpg manage 52 K 13 Jul 2015 - 19:59 TerryLaurin Photo by Christine Skelmersdale-Broadleigh Gardens-United Kingdom
iristuberosa9.jpegjpeg iristuberosa9.jpeg manage 86 K 03 Feb 2023 - 02:59 TerryLaurin Photo by Wild Ginger Farm
tuberosa01.JPGJPG tuberosa01.JPG manage 671 K 13 Dec 2017 - 15:44 TerryLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
tuberosa02.JPGJPG tuberosa02.JPG manage 700 K 13 Dec 2017 - 15:46 TerryLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
tuberosa03.JPGJPG tuberosa03.JPG manage 685 K 13 Dec 2017 - 15:49 TerryLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
tuberosa04.JPGJPG tuberosa04.JPG manage 979 K 13 Dec 2017 - 15:51 TerryLaurin Photo by Cascadia Iris Gardens
tuberosa5.JPGJPG tuberosa5.JPG manage 77 K 04 Oct 2023 - 02:10 TerryLaurin Photo by John Jearrard -Jearrad's Herbal-United Kingdom
tuberosa_photo1_L_Ransom.jpgjpg tuberosa_photo1_L_Ransom.jpg manage 64 K 10 Apr 2010 - 15:42 Main.zeblouz  
tuberosa_photo2_L_Ransom.jpgjpg tuberosa_photo2_L_Ransom.jpg manage 45 K 10 Apr 2010 - 15:43 Main.zeblouz  
tuberosa_photo3_L_Ransom.jpgjpg tuberosa_photo3_L_Ransom.jpg manage 49 K 10 Apr 2010 - 15:43 Main.zeblouz  
tuberosa_photo4_L_Ransom.jpgjpg tuberosa_photo4_L_Ransom.jpg manage 54 K 10 Apr 2010 - 15:44 Main.zeblouz  
Topic revision: r24 - 10 Oct 2023, Harloiris
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