Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Iris 'Florentina' The Florentine Iris

'Iris 'Florentina'' is an early flowering iris of historical significance and its shorter growth suits the front of the border.The variety was mentioned in the post on 'Gracchus' as a cut flower. Also known as the Florentine Iris, 'Florentina' is in my opinion a natural hybrid that has found favor with gardeners for at least the last 600 years. Used in the production of Orris Root along with I.albicans, I.pallida, and I.germanica.

The following will give much for the reader to consider.

Courtesy “The Gardeners Chronicle”, Page 806, December 23rd 1876
93. I. florentina, Linnaeus Species Plantarum edition 2, p. 55; Botanical Magazine., t. 671 ; Redoute Les Liliacées., t. 23; John Sibthorp, Florae Græcae., t. 39; Reichenbach, Iconographia Flora Germanica., tab. 339, fig, 766; Woodville, Medical Botany. iv.. t. 263, 1790-93 ; Spach, Histoire naturelle des végétaux xiii.,p. 63 ; Bentley and Trimen, Medicinal Plants, t. 273 1875; I. alba, Gaetano Savi, Flora Pisana vol. i., p. 32.
Rhizome wide-creeping, thicker than a man's finger, fragrant when dried. Leaves about half-a-dozen in a tuft, ensiform, glaucous, 12— 13 inches long, 1—1½ inch broad, narrowed gradually to a point. Flowering stems 2—3 feet high, much overtopping the leaves, branched above the middle, bearing 3—4 terminal spathes. Spathe-valves 2—2½ inches long, lanceolate-navicular, 1—1¼ inch broad, green on the keel in the lower part only at the flowering time, tinged with purple towards the edge. Flowers fragrant. Pedicel ½—¾ inch long inside the spathe; ovary cylindrical, ¾ inch long; tube 1 inch long, greenish; limb 3—3½ inches deep; both rows of segments 18—21 lines broad; falls obovate-cuneate, white tinged with lavender, reflexing half way down, the claw veined with green and brown, the beard bright yellow; standards erect, obovate-oblong with a short claw, pure white. Standards 1¼ inch long, exclusive of the deltoid toothed crests. Anthers ⅝ inch long, equalling the filaments.
Now spread universally through the Mediterranean region, but it has been cultivated so much that its indigenous distribution is quite uncertain. It is one of the best known of all the Irises flowering in our London gardens with germanica early in May.
The Spanish I. albicans, Lange, Ic. Plant. Hisp., t. 33 differs from florentina by its pure white flowers, subsessile ovary, and shorter perianth-tube and spathe valves

CORNELL MEMOIR 100 Study of Pogoniris Varieties Austin W.W. Sand July 1926
Florentina (Native to Italy and Southern France since 1500)
Colour effect somewhat grayed bluish white self: good size: form long to oblong spreading: tall bearded class; height 27in ; branching widely fastigiate, below center, 2-3 laterals. A flower of medium good substance; frail to firm texture; very good fragrance; poor to good lasting quality. Useful in mass, where it is persistent foliage is good after the flowering season is over. Useful also as a cut flower.
S. opalescent blusish white to pearl and pale olive gray; carriage cupped, arching, floppy; blade spatulate to wedge shaped, waved; a few hairs often present on claw; 1½ in. wide, 2¼ in. long. F. pearl to bluish white,cream-colored on haft with indistinct reticulations of olive; carriage dropping; shape spatulate to wedge-shaped; waved; size 1½ in. wide, 2½ in. long. Minor parts; beard fine to coarse, dense projecting, conspicuous, white tipped with yellow; haft broad, channelled; reticulations broken, widely spaced, inconspicuous; style-branches broad, overarching, keeled, bluish; crest large, fringed; pollen plentiful, yellow; spathe-valves scarious, inflated,keeled. Growth vigorous; increase rapid; habit compact; foliage stiff, leaves broad, glaucous yellow-green; 2 blooms open at once, floriferous; stalk erect, with 5 buds. 
This is a sweet scented, early flowering variety and together with I.pallida is the source of the dried orris root of commerce. According to the best botanical usage I.florentina is not a proper designation of any species of the bearded iris. This should more properly be treated as a horticultural variety of I.germanica. As such many synonyms have occurred, perhaps due to slight variations within the strain or to local conditions affecting color, size, or shape of blooms. Some of these names are; alba odorata; Florentina Alba: Florentina Queen Emma; Florentina Silver King; Gambetta; Florentine. For a variety so well adapted to general mass planting and so useful as a cut flower, its rating (76) would seem much to low for an iris of its quality, produced early in the season.

The Longfeild Iris Farm, Bluffton, Indiana, 1925
Florentina. The fragrant early flowering Iris common everywhere. Standards and Falls white tinged lavender. Flowers of good size borne on rather weak stalks.Thirty inches. Makes a beautiful clump and always dependable. $0.25

Kelway's Hardy Perennials and Colour Borders 1929-1930 page 37
Florentina (species) ( White Fleur-de-luce), very large flowers; standard pure white ; fall ; white slightly tinged lavender ; fragrant ; May and June. Orris root is the root of Iris Florentina prepared. 2½ ft ; Fine and lasting for cut flowers. 6d each ; 5/6 doz ; 50 for 20/- ; 100 for 35/-

Irises A Gardener's Encyclopedia; Claire Austin
Iris 'Florentina' Linnaeus 1762
Italy and Mediterranean Islands
Historically the plant we know as Iris 'Florentina' is one of the most important irises to be grown commercially in Europe. Cultivated in Italy for centuries, it has been used to make orris root, a powder that can add fragrance to perfume or flavour to Chianti wine. The blooms are white with a tinge of blue and white beards can be found on the low parts of the standards. Height; 45cm (18 in.)

Atti Del 1 Simposio Internazionale Dell'iris - Firenze, 14-18 Maggio 1963.
Report of the 1st International Symposium on Iris - Florence, May 14-18, 1963

Includes a paper by Dr Luigi Sani asks us to consider that at one time I.albicans was used for orris root production and it was sometimes mistakenly called I.florentina. It is the iris I.pallida which is mainly grown for this purpose in Tuscany.
Dr Sani also noted that I.florentina leaves where used to produce a pigment, (Verdiris) which was used by the Italian renaissance painters

THE IRIS, Brian Mathew
I.florentina Linn. It seems to me that this is not a true wild species, but an albino cultivar closely linked with I.germanica. Linnaeus in his original description of 1762 said that it was similar to I.germanica but with white flowers, although he referred to Miller's figure number 154 which represents the Spuria Iris I.orientalis (= I.ochroleuca). It is clear however, that Linnaeus intended the name 'Florentina' for the well-known bearded Florentine iris........I can see little justification for regarding this plant as anything more than a horticultural selection in which the name I.germanica 'Florentina' would be appropriate. (see below)

I.germanica 'Florentina' (Syn. I.florentina L.) This is the white flowered variant of I.germanica which is frequently confused with I.albicans .'Florentina' has beautiful, scented, flowers of a very faintly bluish shade rather than pure white and on the falls there is some greenish-yellow veining on the haft, and a deep yellow beard. Like I.germanica the inflorescence is branched and these branches are quite long, immediately distinguishing it from I.albicans in which the lateral flowers are sessile.
Note; These conclusions had been previously discussed by W.R.Dykes in his article 'Certain white-flowered species' published in "The Gardener's Chronicle" September 17th 1910

The Botanical Magazine, Curtis, Published 1803, Volume 18; Artist S Edwards

AIS Checklist 1929
FLORENTINA TB-W1 (Collected-Italy-Introduced Northern Europe, about 1500) The name florentina has been applied to various forms of Iris. According to the best botanical usage it is not a proper designation of any species of the genus. It is therefore treated here, as also in Bailey's Standard Cyclopaedia as a horticultural variety of I.germanica which together with I.pallida is the source of the aromatic "orris root"of commerce. The name I.florentina is often mis-applied also to I.albicans.

Comments of Clarence Mahan's 'Iris Myths and Fallacies' and his questionable validity and conclusions concerning the subject 'White Irises and Orris Root' have not been included. There is no doubt this subject will be covered in a later post as there are a variety of conjectures to refute. (printed papers International Symposium on Iris New Zealand 2000 pages 77-97)

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1 comment:

  1. This info is so helpful....I've had my heart set on raising orris root for years and finally have the opportunity. Now to hunt it down...

    Andrea, New Mexico (US)



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