Monday, June 1, 2015

Understanding Louisiana Iris Part 2: I fulva

By Joe Musacchia        


Parula Warblers
I. fulva has a great history. It is the species most responsible for this group of irises being called “Louisiana” irises. Besides the fact that four of the five species grow and naturally hybridize in Louisiana, I. fulva was first called “Louisiana Flag” by John James Audubon in 1821. He used an illustration of I. fulva on which to put his painting of the Blue-Backed Yellow Warblers, and in his notes referred to the plant as a “Louisiana Flag.”  It became all the rage as the first red Iris. The warblers in the painting are now known as Parula Warblers.

Traits of I. fulva:

Red I. fulva showing multi flower positions
 and branching

I. Fulva has an extensive range from the Gulf Coast well up the Ohio Valley.  I. fulva is listed as 'endangered' in Kentucky and Tennessee, and is listed as 'threatened' in Illinois. I. fulva is not usually found in standing water, although it will tolerate shallow water for long periods. The preferred habitat is the damp or wet banks along ditches and swampy areas. The flower stalk is thin and straight, or slightly zig-zag, eighteen to thirty-two inches tall. They can be found with one to two branches with flower sockets that may be doubled. The main stalk generally has 4 bud positions. 

Fulva 'Lottie Butterscotch'
A yellow showing semi-umbrella form 
I fulva blooms later than I. giganticaerulea, in mid-season in Louisiana. It has an open semi-umbrella form with flowers two and a half to three and a half inches across. The common color is a rusty red, but darker red forms are not uncommon. Yellow is found now and then, but is not common.  The underlying color of I. fulva is yellow, so the flowers that lack red pigment are yellow.

The rhizome of I. fulva is long and slender, but not nearly as long as I. giganticaerulea. Consequently, it does not travel as much, and forms tighter clumps. Its root structure is also much shallower. When grown in loose soil, and when many flowers are open, the stalks tend to go over in strong wind. This is not a problem in its native growing areas with more clay in the soil. Like I. giganticaerulea, in the heat of the summer I. fulva tends to go dormant, but grows through the winter here in Louisiana. Unlike I. giganticaerulea, in colder regions such as Central New York, it
Benny Trahan holding a typical Fulva
showing the height and color. This was
taken on a tour in southern Louisiana at
a SLI convention  
blooms nicely, usually in lat
e June and will grow all summer with adequate water there.                      
I. fulva genes add diversity to the Louisiana iris hybridizer’s mix; a lot more flowers, branching, less traveling with tighter clumps, and an extended range where Louisianas can and will grow and bloom. Most of all, we must not leave out color. Red and yellow are a welcome addition to the Louisiana iris color palette. 
Fulva 'Ouachita Half-Moon'
The smallest most unique collected fulva I have seen.
The flowers are 1 - 1 1\2 inches on a 12-15' stalk
with branching and 4-5 bud possessions

Coming Up:  The Traits of   I brevicaulis                                                                                                                                    

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