See Show Calender


You are here: Iris Wiki>Spec Web>SpeciesIrises>SpecVersicolor (12 Apr 2023, TLaurin)Edit Attach

■ (SPEC) Iris versicolor L.

1753, Botanical author Linneaus

Iris versicolor L. ( Carolus Linnaeus, 1753, E. U.S.A); Section Limniris, Series Laevigatae. 8-32" (20-80 cm); Purples, violets, or lavenders; Linnaeus in Species Plantarum ed. 1: 39. 1753;

See below:

CY-I-VERSICOLOR DEEP ROSE.jpgDD-I-VERSICOLOR WHITE -LAVENDER VEINS.jpgDykes plate XVLIII versicolor.jpgI-versicolor-in-pond.jpgI-Versicolor.jpgI.versicolor01.jpgI.versicolor02.jpgI.versicolorJB16.JPGIMG 6868-X2 i versicolor.jpgIrisversicolor01.jpgiversicolor02.jpgIversicolor05.jpgIversicolor06.jpgiversicolor07.jpgiversicolorrosea01.jpgrosea01.jpgversicolor01.JPGversicolor02.JPGversicolor03.JPGversicolor04.JPGversicolor05.JPGversicolor06.jpgversicolor07.JPGversicolor10.jpgversicolor2.jpgversicolor3.JPGversicolor5.JPGversicolor9.jpgVersicolor plate from Addisonia.jpgversicolor seed.jpgversicolorblue.jpegversicolorblue1.jpegversicolorkermisina.JPGversicolorpurple.jpegvirginicapurple.jpeg


Linn. Species Plantarum 38. 1753;
Curtis's Botanical Magazine, table 21, 1787
Hocker 1938; Robbins 1939; Kat. 1939;
Jacquin aîné, 1834, Iris versicolor, Annales de Flore et de Pomone, pp. 366-368.
Dickson 1794; Prince 1823; Van W. 1907; Bon. 1920; Farr 1920.
In Addisonia 9: 4, 55. Dec. 1924 , ; Small provides the following note; "The taxonomic botanical history of iris in America starts with this species. Linnaeus based the name, indirectly, on descriptions of plants said to have come from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, including descriptions and figures which were supposed by Dillenius to represent two species. The name Iris versicolor, however, has now settled upon the common blue flag of the northeastern States and the highlands of the South. The remote ancestors of Iris versicolor in the High Appalachian Highlands evidently gave rise to various species of Iris as the descendants spread to all points of the compass. After the ice-age, Iris versicolor or its immediate relatives spread northward, eastward, and westward, but kept mainly to the higher provinces, particularly to the Piedmont, where as a species it has settled down to a very consistent aggregate. Iris versicolor and its relative I. carolina[I. virginica] are the only large blue-flags that have retained a geographic continuity through all the plant provinces, from the original Appalachian Highlands to the coast.
As one would suspect, in the case of a plant that is widely distributed and an inhabitant of several plant provinces of various altitudes, there is more variation in size and vigor of the plants of Iris versicolor, although its flowers and fruits are reasonably constant in characters. It has had vastly more experience, so to speak, than its relative Iris carolina, and has for some reason developed a double row of seeds in each carpel. This character, which amounts to the doubling of the number of seeds, may have resulted in its maintenance in environments more rigorous and precarious than that of its southern relative.
Iris versicolor is quite flexible in regard to natural habitats, and hence tractable in cultivation; preferring a soil in which much humus has been deposited, its native haunts are swamps, marshes, meadows, streams, stream banks, lakes, and ponds. Different colonies and individual plants exhibit pale and deep shades of color in the flowers, and albinos are not infrequently observed in the field. The specimen from which the accompanying illustration was made was from a native colony in the New York Botanical Garden.
The common blue-flag has a very stout horizontal rootstock. The leaves are erect and usually four to six together, with linear, often narrow linear-attenuate, glaucous blades up to one and a half feet long. The flower-stalk is stoutish, as tall as the leaves or taller, simple or with a peduncle-like branch at the middle or above it. The flower-cluster usually exceeds the leaves, terminating a green or purplish peduncle. The main bracts are much shorter than the leaves. The flowers are much exserted from the involucre. The main bracts of the involucre are not foliaceous. The pedicels are mostly one and a half to three inches long. The hypanthium, surrounding the ovary, is usually shorter than the pedicel and bluntly three-angled. The perianth-tube is funnel-form, about one fourth of an inch long. The flowers are mostly two or three together at the ends of terminal and often of axillary peduncle-like, stoutish, glaucescent branches. The three sepals are spreading, remate, one and three quarters to two and a quarter inches long; the blade is ovate, slightly longer than the claw, crestless, mainly violet or purple and indistinctly veined with darker purple, the claw is rather broad, but less than half the width of the blade, green or yellowish green, veined with dark purple, the green running into the base of the blade where it turns to white which is veined with bright purple which runs down the upper part of the blade. The three sepals are erect, narrowly spatulate, three fifths to four fifths as long as the sepals, purple and veined with darker purple, or whitish with purple veins near the narrow base. The three stamens are one to one and a quarter inches long, the anthers slightly longer than the filaments. The three style-branches are broadly inear, nearly or quite one and a half inches long, about one third of an inch wide, lilac with whitish margins. The style-appendages are one fourth to one third of an inch long, curved inward, semi-orbicular-quadrate, rounded at the apex and undulate-angulate. The stigmas are irregularly broadly rounded entire. The capsules are prismatic-cylindric, or in the case of short ones somewhat ellipsoid, mostly one and a hlf to two and a half inches long, with a slight ridge one each side and a slightly more prominent ridge on each rounded angle, obtuse or slightly beaked, the earlier ones on pedicels shorter or longer than their length, the later ones often with longer pedicels The seeds, borne in two rows in each carpel or cavity of the capsule, are semiorbiculate or lunate, rather thin, dark brown, slightly corky, about one third of an inch in long diameter."
The origins of Iris versicolor are discussed in Edgar Andersons paper "The Problem of Species in The Northern Blue Flags, Iris versicolor L. and Iris virginica L." in the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 1928, pages 241-313.
Anderson, E., (1935), The Irises of the Gaspe Peninsula, Bulletin of the American Iris Society, #59 October. Note the AIS Bulletin Archives are available on the AIS Emembers site
Anderson, E., (1936), Blue Flag Irises of North America in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 23: 457-509. Iris virginica var. schrevei.


Boltoniana, Hort. ex Regel; caurina, Her.; Common Blue Flag; flaccida, Spach; pulchella, Regel; Virginica; virginiana.

Chromosome counts

2n=54,56, Simonet, 1932; 2n=108, Anderson, 1936; 2n=108, Love & Love, 1961; 2n=108, Love & Love, 1981; 2n=108, Laublin & Cappadocia, 1992.


Iris versicolor L.
  • forma albocaerulea Rousseau.
  • forma murrayana Fernald
Iris versicolor cultivars
'Anticosti Discovery', 'Arkanensis', 'Between The Lines', 'Blakit', 'Blue Beauty', 'Canaletto', 'Candystriper'. 'Cascade Mist', 'Cat Mousam'. 'Cezanne', 'Chagall', 'China Blue', 'China West Lake', 'Claret Cup', 'Columbus Park', 'Columnae', 'Dairymaid', 'David', 'Da Vinci', 'Dirigo Black Point', 'Faded Jeans', 'Fosteri', 'Gigas', 'Goldbrook', 'Goya', 'Hansoni', 'Helen Decker', 'Indianensis', 'Islands Cheer', 'Jack Dunderman', 'John Wood', 'Kermesiana', 'Kermesina', 'Krieghoff', 'Lavender Beanty', 'Little Rhyme', 'Magnat', 'Mar Jan', 'Matisse', 'Michigan', 'Mint Fresh', 'Monet'. 'Monique's Child', 'Murrayana', 'Mysterious Monique', 'Oliver Pease', 'Party Line', 'Pellan', 'Pink Indeed', 'Pink Peaks', 'Purpurascens', 'Riopelle', 'Rosea', 'Rougette', 'Rowden Allegro', 'Rowden Aria', 'Rowden Cadenza', 'Rowden Concerto', 'Rowden Fugue', 'Rowden Lyric', 'Rowden Mazurka', 'Rowden Nocturne', 'Rowden Rondo', 'Rowden Scherzo', 'Rowden Sonata', 'Rowden Symphony', 'Rowden Waltz', 'Shape Up', 'Silvington', 'Stella Main', 'Sweet Blue', 'Swords of Murex', 'Vernal, 'Versicle', 'Versicolor Major', 'Versicolor Novaboracensis', 'Versicolor pallida', 'Versicolor Pulchella', 'Versicolor Royal Purple', 'Versijack', 'Version', 'Vlaminck', 'Whodunit', 'Wild Hearts', 'Wild Wine',


Iris versicolor crosses: ¼ Iris versicolor crosses: 'Akira Horinaka', 'Dyson Moore', 'Enfant Prodige', 'Little Prince', 'Mirabel Glow', 'Marie Chuard', 'Que Reverie', 'Reensata', 'Splendid Companion', 'Spring Surprise', 'Strange Fantasy', 'Tenue Royale', 'Top Pick', 'Welcome Intruder',

Advanced Iris versicolor crosses: 'George Rodionenko', 'Night Flash'

Distribution and Cultivation

Distribution: The distribution of the species gives clues as to its cultural requirements, although plants in cultivation can often tolerate a wider range of variables:

The species is found in the following region: Central & Eastern Canada to North Carolina & Eastern U.S.A.
and specifically in the following states and provinces: Manitoba, Labrador, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermount, Virginia, Maryland.

Bonap's North American Plant Atlas shows the following map. Note locations in Nebraska and Idaho probably reflect herbarium specimens collected in gardens. Reproduced by permission of Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2015. Taxonomic Data Center. ( Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2015. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]
Cultivation: Flourishing in full sun, well drained, good garden soil that stays moist. Often found near streams but not in the water

Please do not enter images that are not your own without owners' permission, this is against Wiki policy

"Although the Encyclopedia is free to all, it is supported by Emembership in AIS, If you would like to help sustain this reference, for $15 you can become an Emember, click here."

Interested in Iris Species? Please visit the: Species Iris Group of North America website.

To Report errors do not use comment box but contact the Iris Encyclopedia Photo Manager or Iris Encyclopedia Manager Comment box is reserved for added information about the topic.

Your Observations Are Valued. Please make note of bud count, branching, purple based foliage and bloom time, etc. Because these are affected by climate, note date, year and geographic location and write these and other comments in the comment box below.


-- Main.RPries - 2010-02-22
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
CY-I-VERSICOLOR_DEEP_ROSE.jpgjpg CY-I-VERSICOLOR_DEEP_ROSE.jpg manage 41 K 17 Sep 2010 - 01:28 UnknownUser Lorena Reid photo
DD-I-VERSICOLOR_WHITE_-LAVENDER_VEINS.jpgjpg DD-I-VERSICOLOR_WHITE_-LAVENDER_VEINS.jpg manage 32 K 17 Sep 2010 - 01:46 UnknownUser Lorena Reid photo
Dykes_plate_XVLIII_versicolor.jpgjpg Dykes_plate_XVLIII_versicolor.jpg manage 47 K 03 Jan 2011 - 21:47 UnknownUser versicolor seed from Dykes The Genus Iris
I-Versicolor.jpgjpg I-Versicolor.jpg manage 46 K 19 Oct 2010 - 22:08 EleanorHutchison Photo by El Hutchison, near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Z3
I-versicolor-in-pond.jpgjpg I-versicolor-in-pond.jpg manage 58 K 19 Oct 2010 - 22:09 EleanorHutchison Photo by El Hutchison, near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Z3
I.versicolor01.jpgjpg I.versicolor01.jpg manage 24 K 06 Oct 2014 - 03:24 UnknownUser Photo by Chapman Iris
I.versicolor02.jpgjpg I.versicolor02.jpg manage 29 K 06 Oct 2014 - 03:25 UnknownUser Photo by Chapman Iris
I.versicolorJB16.JPGJPG I.versicolorJB16.JPG manage 53 K 07 May 2016 - 19:55 Main.Betsy881 Photo by John Baumfalk
IMG_6868-X2_i_versicolor.jpgjpg IMG_6868-X2_i_versicolor.jpg manage 207 K 17 Feb 2016 - 05:47 BrockHeilman Please contact Brock Heilman for image use.
Irisversicolor01.jpgjpg Irisversicolor01.jpg manage 52 K 19 Sep 2014 - 19:37 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Adele and Lewis Lawyer slide collection
Iversicolor05.jpgjpg Iversicolor05.jpg manage 79 K 06 Jun 2014 - 21:25 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Rosalie Figge slide collection
Iversicolor06.jpgjpg Iversicolor06.jpg manage 101 K 06 Jun 2014 - 21:27 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Rosalie Figge slide collection
Versicolor_plate_from_Addisonia.jpgjpg Versicolor_plate_from_Addisonia.jpg manage 45 K 14 Oct 2011 - 13:23 UnknownUser Addisonia plate
iversicolor02.jpgjpg iversicolor02.jpg manage 62 K 09 Oct 2014 - 21:44 UnknownUser Photo by Rowden Gardens-England
iversicolor07.jpgjpg iversicolor07.jpg manage 51 K 28 Jan 2016 - 22:13 UnknownUser Photo by Iris City Gardens
iversicolorrosea01.jpgjpg iversicolorrosea01.jpg manage 59 K 28 Jan 2016 - 22:16 UnknownUser Photo by Iris City Gardens
rosea01.jpgjpg rosea01.jpg manage 147 K 20 Jun 2017 - 15:50 UnknownUser Photo by Holly Johnson-Taken at MN Landscape Arboretum
versicolor01.JPGJPG versicolor01.JPG manage 64 K 28 Nov 2014 - 21:46 UnknownUser Photo by Don McQueen,London, Ont. Canada Zone5.
versicolor02.JPGJPG versicolor02.JPG manage 65 K 28 Nov 2014 - 21:47 UnknownUser Photo by Don McQueen,London, Ont. Canada Zone5.
versicolor03.JPGJPG versicolor03.JPG manage 71 K 28 Nov 2014 - 21:49 UnknownUser Photo by Don McQueen,London, Ont. Canada Zone5.
versicolor04.JPGJPG versicolor04.JPG manage 60 K 21 Apr 2014 - 20:08 UnknownUser Photo by Don McQueen,London, Ont. Canada Zone5.
versicolor05.JPGJPG versicolor05.JPG manage 83 K 19 Jul 2014 - 20:17 UnknownUser Photo by Don McQueen,London, Ont. Canada Zone5.
versicolor06.jpgjpg versicolor06.jpg manage 61 K 18 Jun 2015 - 18:47 UnknownUser Photo by Alla Chernoguz-Ukraine
versicolor07.JPGJPG versicolor07.JPG manage 112 K 29 Mar 2019 - 15:18 UnknownUser Photo by Don McQueen-London,Ont.-Canada Zone 5
versicolor10.jpgjpg versicolor10.jpg manage 46 K 10 Oct 2013 - 20:20 UnknownUser Photo by Alla Chernoguz-Ukraine
versicolor2.jpgjpg versicolor2.jpg manage 139 K 13 Mar 2017 - 18:32 UnknownUser Photo by Geles Iris Garden-Lithuania
versicolor3.JPGJPG versicolor3.JPG manage 49 K 10 Feb 2012 - 18:16 Main.htb ©2004 Laurie Frazer
versicolor5.JPGJPG versicolor5.JPG manage 159 K 12 Apr 2023 - 15:27 UnknownUser Photo taken at 1983 AIS Boston Convention by Verna Laurin at the Warburton Garden
versicolor9.jpgjpg versicolor9.jpg manage 65 K 10 Oct 2013 - 20:17 UnknownUser Photo by Alla Chernoguz-Ukraine
versicolor_seed.jpgjpg versicolor_seed.jpg manage 29 K 29 Sep 2010 - 18:37 UnknownUser seed
versicolorblue.jpegjpeg versicolorblue.jpeg manage 37 K 19 Feb 2020 - 20:20 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Carla Lankow slide collection
versicolorblue1.jpegjpeg versicolorblue1.jpeg manage 77 K 19 Feb 2020 - 20:23 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Carla Lankow slide collection
versicolorkermisina.JPGJPG versicolorkermisina.JPG manage 141 K 05 Apr 2023 - 14:09 UnknownUser Photo taken at 1981 AIS St. Louis Convention by Verna Laurin at the Griffin Garden
versicolorpurple.jpegjpeg versicolorpurple.jpeg manage 82 K 19 Feb 2020 - 16:29 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Carla Lankow slide collection
virginicapurple.jpegjpeg virginicapurple.jpeg manage 27 K 19 Feb 2020 - 20:34 UnknownUser Photo scanned from the Carla Lankow slide collection
Topic revision: r65 - 12 Apr 2023, TLaurin
This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding Iris Wiki? Send feedback