Monday, February 10, 2014

Iris brevicaulis the Short Stemmed Iris

by Jim Murrain

Iris brevicaulis is a Louisiana Iris species. It was first described from a plant found in Jackson County, Missouri on June 6, 1897. It still grows in the same location. That specimen is considered the 'type' or what all descriptions of this Iris are based upon. It was described and named Iris foliosa, the leafy Iris. Iris brevicaulis had previously been named, but the description was changed to match I. foliosa and the currently accepted name is Iris brevicaulis, the short stemmed Iris.

Above and below: I. brevicaulis from the 'type' location in Missouri.

I. brevicaulis  is the hardiest and most wide ranging of the Louisiana irises. It has been found from Leavenworth, Kansas all the way to  the northeast shore of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada, as far southwest as The Big Thicket of east Texas and southeast into the Florida Panhandle.

Below is one from Alabama.

Oh course, as with all Louisiana irises (and the reason for the descriptive name) the greatest concentrations are found in and near the bayous of south Louisiana. I. brevicaulis, however,  prefers it drier than the other members of its group and is found above the riverbanks and in moist fields.

A purple and a dark blue found in Arkansas.

It readily hybridizes with the other Louisiana Iris species and imparts greater hardiness and a lessened need for wet conditions, so it should be used even more in hybridization.

Below is an interesting color form, named 'Finders Keepers', selected by Frank Chowning and registered in 1961. There is still much of interest in the straight species and they are worth growing on their own merits.

There is also a registered 'All Falls' with six falls and no standards that I would love to see, and several selections of white flowered forms.

Iris brevicaulis is the easiest of all Louisiana Iris species to grow and the latest to flower, thus a fine season extender.  Consider adding this iris to your garden.


  1. Hi Jim, thanks for a very interesting piece and some great photos. I am learning a lot about US irises through reading this blog. I'm really looking forward to the irises flowering here at Sissinghurst Garden where I work although it seems a long way off as we struggle on with stormy weather! Helen

  2. Very interesting article, I think I'll try some.! Any suggestions for sources ?

  3. I've been surprised at how few nurseries list these. Besides the one mentioned below a web search should turn up a few others. has a couple . lists 'Finders Keepers'


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