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■ (SPEC) Iris typhifolia Kitagawa

1928, Botanical author Kitagawa

Iris typhifolia Kitagawa (Maso Kitagawa, 1928, widespread in northeast China and Inner Mongolia); Section Limniris, Series Sibericae. SPEC. 20-24" (50-60 cm); Blooms early for Sibiricae; Flower deep blue purple mottled with small brownish spots, leaves very narrow, 2 mm wide. Kitagawa in Bot. Mag. Tokyo 48: 94, f. 10. 1934.

See below:

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Iris typhifolia Kitag., Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 48: 94 (1934).
Jennifer Hewitt presented the following article in The 1995 Iris Year Book, p.83-85, which aptly describes the horticultural status of this species.

"The hybrid race we call Siberian irises has been developed over many years from Iris sibirica and I. sanguinea and hybrids between them, the two species of the Sibiricas with a diploid chromosome number of 2n=28. Tetraploid cultivars have been produced by treating seedlings with colchicine originally, then interbreeding converted plants to produce a stable race, but are not known to occur naturally. A third species with the same chromosome number was known to exist but herbarium specimens were the only evidence in the West for I. typhifolia. Native to northern China, it was inaccessible during the long years when contact with Chinese botanists, or visits to the country, were impossible.
Things began to change some fifteen years ago, and in 1982 Professor Zhao Yu-tang, author of the account of Iris for the Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae (Flora of China), wrote about a number of iris species for the Year Book and included Iris typhifolia. Subsequently, he sent seed to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and some seedlings were given to a few BIS members. Most were planted outdoors and did not survive their first British winter, but Bob Wise planted one in the soil in his cold greenhouse and in November 1989 it flowered on very short stems, the first ones to be seen in the West in Modern times, perhaps the first ones ever. In 1990 Bob's plant bloomed twice, in May on 60 cm (24in) stems and in July when it reached 110 cm (43 in) with leaves at the same height. Bob wrote about it in the 1990 Year Book and there is a colour photograph taken by Peter Maynard. The flowers, of moderate size, were described as blue-violet but redder in the photograph and there is almost no signal patch.

Bob was able to self-pollinate some flowers and also to use the pollen on two Siberian cultivars, and he distributed the resulting seeds. I received some of the selfed Iris typhifolia; not many germinated and those I have planted outside, even when they are of reasonable size, have never survived their first winter. Some half-dozen have been kept in the cold greenhouse, in pots, and they grow slowly; none has bloomed, so far. [compilers note-Iris typhifolia has been a problem in climates with moderate winters, possibly because it comes into growth too early whereas in severe climates it apparently does well].

The story of the 'Dreaming Yellow' x I. typhifolia cross has been very different. Some seeds germinated in the autumn of 1990 (in a pot, kept indoors for safety) and many more, a very high percentage, in spring 1991. Unfortunately I could not cope with so many so kept only twelve of the strongest which were potted individually and planted out in 1992. Eleven still survive and most have formed good clumps. Two bloomed for the first time in 1994 and were exhibited at the BIS Summer Show, and six flowered in 1995. They were all in shades of violet-blue, most appearing more blue than violet though one was quite deep violet. Style arms often showed turquoise areas, and signals, always present, were yellow to white. The flowers were still moderate in size and rather narrow-petalled, with semi-flaring falls; some stems were branched. The leaves, though broader than in the species, were narrower than those of 'Dreaming Yellow' and have remained fairly upright and elegant. Flowering began earlier than in most other Siberians ('Dreaming Yellow' is not early with me) and there is no sign of rebloom so far, perhaps because of the dry summer and also because rebloom is not frequent in this garden, however enthusiastic I may be about it; 'Dreaming Yellow' has been known to rebloom in a more encouraging British garden, occasionally.

Crosses have been made with a Siberian cultivar and with I. setosa (the latter I did not have great hopes of, but a healthy-looking pod has formed) and there are numerous bee-set pods from which I hope to send to the BIS Seed Distribution.
What else has happened in Britain? Very little that I have heard of; perhaps other members can tell of their experiences in the next Year Book or Newsletter? One nursery is listing Iris typhifolia, and Bob Wise exhibited it at the Late Spring Show in May 1995. I wish I could have been there to see it as I have not yet seen the flowers.

When I visited the USA in 1993 I was too late to see it bloom and could only envy the large clumps with many seed pods which I saw in gardens. Clearly it likes life there more than in Britain. Does it perhaps need more summer heat (more consistent summer heat?) than we usually get, which gave us hope for 1996? I even imported a piece of healthy size from the USA in 1993 and it has survived in the garden, but has not increased or flowered

Reports in the Spring 1995 issue of the Siberian Iris make it clear that much more is being seen and is happening in the USA. With the kind permission of the editor, Judy Hollingworth, and the authors, here is a summary of the reports. To set the scene, it should be mentioned that Dr. James Waddick, author (with Professor Zhao) of Iris of China, has visited China twice and brought back plants and seed of many irises. Quantities of Iris typhifolia seed have been distributed by Dr. Waddick and Professor Zhao, and it seems that the first flowers were seen by Dr. Waddick in 1991, though buds had been killed by frost the previous year. His description (in TSI for fall 1991) appears to tally with that of Bob Wise'' plant, in general. In 1992 plants were being offered for sale by John Coble and Bob Bauer of Ensata Gardens, and it seems that was the first year in which a large number of seedlings bloomed. Observations in that and later years are those reported in TSI for Spring 1995, and it is evident that here is a species showing a considerable degree of variation and the first plants to flower, while they more or less corresponded with Professor Zhao's description in the 1992 Year Book, were not the whole story.

To date it does not seem that any albino forms have been seen in the wild or in cultivation. The flowers are described as deep violet (Zhao) or blue-purple (Waddick) in Iris of China and there Waddick states "...there are no known variations in color, form or stature" but adds " more material or other collections is introduced, we may see more variety".

Variations in colour: Bob Hollingworth reports (in TSI) that these are "all in the basic iris blue-purple range but vary in intensity from quite light to quite dark. In some cases a clear reddish tinge is present, especially in the styles." John Coble mentions medium blue, dark and lighter shades, and purple, and Kevin Morley has seen "all shades of red and blue-violet, with many contrasting midribs". There is variation in the signals, Coble and Hollingsworth reporting that they range from quite large and prominent, through medium and small sizes to being almost absent (cf. Wise). One Coble flower showed a fine white rim on the falls.

Form: Morley says "The flowers tend to vary a great deal in form, many with pendent falls, but some with flaring falls" while Hollingsworth's comment is "Perhaps the greatest degree of variation occurs in the flower form. We have everything from fully pendant falls, to partially flaring ones, to falls that are completely flaring." Kevin Morley adds that the shape of the falls can be oval, round or heart-shaped, and standards vertical or flaring, while Bob Hollingworth's plants all had upright standards, width is always fairly narrow

Stature: heights reported range from 12 in (30 cm) to 35-6 in (88-91 cm) with the average around 24 in (60 cm). John Coble mentions several plants with flower stems at 12, 15 or 18 in (30, 37 or 45 cm). There may be three branches, two, one, or none. Leaves mostly seem to grow to about 36 in (91 cm) after flowering, perhaps less on shorter plants. They are generally narrower and more upright than on related species, often but not always with a spiral twist. They may collapse in late summer.

Bloom season: this is universally early, up to two weeks ahead of the first Siberian cultivars, and Coble and Hollingworth have had great repeat bloom, though only on a few plants. One of John Coble's, though has given repeat stalks for three years, and one year it bloomed three times.
Hybridisation potential: all the contributors have made crosses with other Siberians, aiming for early bloom, added hardiness, more elegant foliage, repeat bloom and prominent signals (not all at once!). The reports were written before any seedlings from these crosses flowered but some at least should have been seen in 1995. Perhaps the earliest flowers to be seen from this type of cross were those in the Maine garden of Currier McEwen, in 1993. Two small plants, in a short row of seedlings from 'Pansy Purple' x Iris typhifolia, had single stems. The flowers on both were very similar. 'Pansy Purple' registered in 1969, has somewhat ungainly flowers with narrowish parts but a very rich, deep, velvety purple; in general, they are not much unlike those of Bob Wise'' I. typhifolia, so it is not surprising that the flowers were broadly similar to both parents.

Bob Hollingworth has treated some seedlings with colchicine bur nonehas been converted to tetraploidy either wholly or partially, and he comments "my impression is that typhifolia seedlings are a bit more resistant to colchicine than those of typical garden Siberians". Even without tetraploidy, it seems that this species has potential for enhancing a range of characters, and perhaps adding ones we have not dreamt of?
2n=28, Lu, J.-m. et al., 1994.
Iris typhifolia




Distribution & Cultivation

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-- Main.RPries - 2010-02-11
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
I.typifolia02.jpgjpg I.typifolia02.jpg manage 24 K 06 Oct 2014 - 03:21 Main.TLaurin Photo by Chapman Iris
IrisTypifolia01.JPGJPG IrisTypifolia01.JPG manage 98 K 25 Nov 2013 - 21:49 Main.TLaurin Photo by Sans Souci Nursery
Ityphyfolia02.jpgjpg Ityphyfolia02.jpg manage 84 K 30 May 2014 - 03:02 Main.TLaurin Photo by Paul Black
typhifolia01.JPGJPG typhifolia01.JPG manage 1 MB 04 Aug 2018 - 02:57 Main.TLaurin Photo by Nancy McDonald-The Pickle Barrel Collection.
typhifolia02.JPGJPG typhifolia02.JPG manage 1 MB 04 Aug 2018 - 02:59 Main.TLaurin Photo by Nancy McDonald-The Pickle Barrel Collection.
typhifolia03.JPGJPG typhifolia03.JPG manage 128 K 25 Jan 2022 - 03:46 Main.TLaurin Photo by Nancy McDonald-The Pickle Barrel Collection.
typhifolia1.jpgjpg typhifolia1.jpg manage 184 K 10 Jun 2018 - 02:39 Main.TLaurin Photo by Eleanor Hutchison-Winnipeg,Manitoba,Canada
typhifolia5.JPGJPG typhifolia5.JPG manage 396 K 14 May 2019 - 23:17 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Carol Lankow slide collection
typhifolia6.JPGJPG typhifolia6.JPG manage 480 K 14 May 2019 - 23:19 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Carol Lankow slide collection
typhifolia7.JPGJPG typhifolia7.JPG manage 399 K 14 May 2019 - 23:22 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Carol Lankow slide collection
typhifolia8.JPGJPG typhifolia8.JPG manage 456 K 15 May 2019 - 01:31 Main.TLaurin Photo scanned from the Carol Lankow slide collection
typhifolia9.JPGJPG typhifolia9.JPG manage 213 K 24 Jun 2023 - 14:02 Main.TLaurin Photo by Verna Laurin-Willowdale-ON-Canada
typhifolia_seed_seed.jpgjpg typhifolia_seed_seed.jpg manage 29 K 29 Sep 2010 - 18:34 UnknownUser seed
Topic revision: r25 - 24 Jun 2023, Harloiris
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