Monday, November 26, 2018

What is in a name? Lophiris - Crested Iris – Part One

By Maggie Asplet

When thinking about what I would write for this blog, it was before our main spring bloom season, just at a time when the sight of things to come was teasing us.  Many of our New Zealand iris lovers have these beautiful irises in their garden.  I am talking about the “butterfly iris” or more correctly Iris japonica and some of the different hybrids.

This iris is a native of China and Japan, a species in the genus Iris, it is also in the subgenus of Limniris and in the Lophiris section.  It is a rhizomatous perennial plant, with pale blue, lavender or white flowers with an orange or yellow crest. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in temperate regions.

Often referred to as either a Crested Iris or an Evansia, and then there is Iris confusa. Confused, I sure am.  I quite like the term “butterfly iris” and look forward to any discussion relating to the correct naming.  This is one section of the iris world that I need to learn more about.

Iris confusa (?) in my garden

Actually, as I started my research on these irises, I was rather surprised to fine how many I have, so more research and understanding is required. 

The next one is a delightful clump of Iris confusa ‘Martyn Rix’, in my garden

Named for a UK plants man Martyn Rix, this iris gets bamboo-like stems to 2'-3' (80 – 95 cm) topped by fans of long green leaves from which the long flower stems emerge bearing a swarm of dark blue-violet flowers which are deeper coloured than typical for the species.

Another similar iris known as ‘Chengdu’, is often confused for the above iris.  Similar in size but slightly different in depth of colour.  Registered by Jean Witt in 1997, this Evansia SPEC grows to around 24” (61 cm).  Standards and style arms are light lavender, the falls slightly darker, signal white with medium lavender halo and a yellow crest.  Originally collected in 1980 by Jeanne Gardiner between Kanding, Tibet and Yaan, Sichuan, China around 3000’ elevation.

‘Chengdu’ in my garden, which was flowering in late September

Now to look at some of the hybrids created in New Zealand

Queen’s Grace, growing in my garden

Queen’s Grace is a cross between I. wattii X I. tectorum hybridized by Jean Stevens in 1955.  36" (91 cm), standards are clear lavender-blue, the falls same flecked deeper at haft; multi-ridges crest on falls, cream-white flecked brown.

We still have a number of gardens where it is blooming in New Zealand.

Question Mark

Registered in 1982 by Revie Harvey, this Evansia grown to 54-60” (137-152cm).  Smooth pale lilac, deeper toned fleck markings, bright gold crests, signal points radiate from crests, dark green foliage topping dark purple green canes.  It is of unknown parentage but probably I. wattii X Darjrrling or I. Confusa


Registered by Mrs M Harvey in 1982, this Evansia grows to 54-60” (137-152 cm).  It is pale lavender with pale gold crest on white zone, numerous deep lavender signal markings, pale lavender style arms with fringed tips; deep green foliage topping medium green canes.  Parentage is an Ellis white sdlg. X Question Mark.

In Part Two we will continue to look at what I have growing in my garden, and others from around the country.

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