Monday, May 30, 2011

Will the real Iris sintenisii PLEASE stand up!

What could be simpler than identifying an iris species? After all, we are not talking about thousands of cultivars and there are plenty of good species descriptions. Right?

There seem to be a number of impostors being called Iris sintenisii, but the real thing might be right under my nose.


Years ago I purchased a plant (1) under this name, but it never looked right. Later I was given a different (2) I. sintenisii that fit photos better. Then I acquired Iris brandzae (3) which all the literature agrees is a subspecies of I. sintenisii and is very distinctive. Here is where identifications really began to get confusing.

If brandzae really is a subspecies (ssp) of sintenisii, they should both look something alike. My two other plants were quite different although obviously small spurias. I then grew a fourth small spuria (4) under the name I. kerneriana. I've grown this before and it is an attractive small plant with yellow flowers. When it bloomed it had violet purple flowers so was obviously another mis-named small spuria. That's 4 plants including the obvious I. brandzae.


I wondered about this but never dug deeper into the species descriptions until this spring. All four iris bloomed and it was obvious some had the wrong name. After reading descriptions of all the smaller spuria species. And starting with a fairly clear idea of the correct ID of I. brandzae I have begun to sort these four iris out.

The plant grown as I. kerneriana (4) corresponds to a larger version of I. brandzae with similar flowers and overlapping bloom season. All species iris books concur with the description of what I have as I. sintenisii ssp brandzae. This makes plant #3 closest to what the true I. sintenisii should be.


My original plant (1) has bloomed often enough that I am fairly certain that it is actually a short form of I. carthalinae.

This leaves my second plant (2) that everyone else grows as I. sintenisii, but I now think has to be an imposter. So what is this one? Using the BIS Species Guide and Mathew's "Iris", I am leaning toward I. pontica, but having never seen or grown this species it is just a guess.


I sent photos around to a few spuria iris gurus to confirm my suspicions, but everyone that replied guessed other name combinations and none saw my similarities. One guessed I. graminea which is very distinct from the other small spurias and I have grown for years with a firm understanding of the correct ID.

Now if only I could identify the iris commonly grown as Iris sintenisii (2). I am hoping to get pictures and descriptions together for another round of 'Name That Iris". Until then will the real Iris sintenisii please stand up and be identified?

(Iris sintenisii)

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