Sunday, July 1, 2012

Iris biliottii, Collected 1887, Sir Michael Foster

SOME NEW IRISES, June 4th 1887.
Rhizome like that of I.germanica. Leaves of a darker green, and more distinctly striated and more rigid than those of I.germanica. but like them largely persistent through the winter, narrowed somewhat suddenly to a point at the apex, about 21 inches long and 1¾ inch broad at the upper part, and ⅞ inch below, the broader part suddenly narrowing at the level, where in an iris leaf, the part answering to the lamina joins the part representing the petiole.
Inflorescence that of I.germanica. Scape (Stem) about 2½-3 feet, overtopping the leaves. Spathe-valves 3 inches by ⅝ Inch, narrow, acuminate, not keeled, persistent, scarious, when the flower is expanded at the very apex only, and sometimes hardly that, widely divergent, so as to expose the whole of the tube and much of the ovary.
Fall 3½ inches by 1½ inch at broadest, spathulate-cuneate ; upper surface, claw white ground, with thick, bold, very dark purple brown veins ; lamina fine reddish-purple, with numerous dark, almost black veins, so thin as to be hardly visible at a distance ; beard white, tipped with yellow, hairs not numerous, but stout and clavate ; under surface of the claw a bright green, in the median green, marked with brown dots, becoming a dull greenish, opaque-white on the lamina, the ground colour of which shines through.
Standard. 3½ x 2 inches, erect, connivent, the short (1½ inch) caniculate claw expanding into the large oval lamina; claw greenish on the outer surface, on the inner surface creamy white, marked on both sides with brown dots and broken veins ; lamina fine blue purple marked with very fine delicate blue veins. The attachments of both the falls and standards to the tube bear conspicuous lateral buttress like expansions.
Style obovate, 1½ inch by ⅝ inch, exclusive of crests, nearly white, except for a purplish flush on under surface beneath stigma, and on upper surface at the base of the crests; crests triangular ⅝ by ⅜ inch, pointed, reflexed, divergent, reddish- purple, with the blue veins ; stigma semi-lunar. The style is raised high above the beard of the fall.
Anthers rather longer then filaments; pollen white, large grained, abundant
Tube ⅞ inch long, bright green, with purple stripes descending from bases of standards, hollow for more than half its links
Ovary 1 inch by ⅜ inch, supported by a short (⅓ inch) pedicel, bright green, rounded, triangular in section, but bearing six grooves, the three lateral being deepest.
Right Capsule (2½ inches by 1¼ inch) ellipsoidal, was six deep grooves dehiscing at summit; seed an elongated oval, having a light brown skin, smooth when first shed.
I owe this new handsome and delightfully fragrant Iris to the great kindness of Alfred Biliotti Esq. formerly counsel at Trebizond, now at Crete, and I venture to give myself the pleasure of naming it after him. The roots were collected South of Trebizond, near Kalahissar, in the province of Siwas.
By its inflorescence it is obviously closely allied to I. germanica, and dried specimens may, perhaps have passed as examples of that species. But they are large conspicuous, persistent, green, widely divergent spathe valves (which in I. germanica are largely scarious at flowering time, often deeply flushed with purple, and tightly clasping the tube), and the deeply grooved ellipsoidal ovary (which in I. germanica is more or less distinctly trigonal, and never deeply grooved), to say nothing of the form in texture of the leaf and the colour of the flower (I do not lay stress on the exact shape of the segments, since these vary much within the true limits of the species I. germanica), seem to me fully to justify my giving it specific rank. It flowers later than I. germanica and is perfectly hardy, requiring the same treatment as I. germanica.

Rhizome, foliage, and inflorescence as in typical I. germanica, save that the leaves are somewhat narrower and less stout, and their green has a more yellowish hue.
The spathe-valves, as in the type, are flushed with purple, and scarious in the upper half at flowering time. The falls are cuneate, spathulate, and the standards ovate, the styles short and broad, with sharply denticulate crests. Ovary bright green, trigonal, with a slight ridge on each side. Tube purple.
The lamina of the fall is a deep dark blue purple-Indigo purple, I might venture to call it. The ground work of the claw of the fall is a light blue purple, the deeper veins on which are consequently much less conspicuous then in the type where the ground work is white. Beard whiter than in type, the hairs being only slightly tipped with yellow.
Standards dark blue purple containing very little red-almost in Oxford blue.
Ripe capsule trigonal, with sharp edges, very short, being not much longer than white.

The several varieties of I.germanica (I mean of course the true I.germanica, not the ‘German Irises’ of the trade) vary a good deal in the form of both the perianth segments ; and I should not venture to give this Iris a distinct varietal name, simply because the shape of its segments (for instance, the shortness of the standards) differs from that of the type. The colouration however taken together with the very marked characters of the ripe capsule justify, in my opinion, a distinct varietal name. Dried specimens have probably been labelled simply Iris germanica.
The roots came to me mixed with the roots of I.Biliotti, just described, as kindly obtained for me by Mr Biliotti, and probably grew at or near the same place.
I have elsewhere urged the desirability of indicating varieties of a species differing slightly only from the type by making use of simple geographical names not turned into Latin. I have therefore called the variety by the name Siwas from the name of the province in which it was found. It is a handsome plant.

Clicking on the above will take you an image of the orginal publication

I have taken the liberty to publish the writing of Sir Michael Foster to include two of the varieties described in the same article so that maybe the reader can better understand the confusion some have associated with the iris I.biliottii and the collected variety 'Siwas'.

So many thanks to Christine Skelmersdale for sharing the photos that have given life to the words of Sir Michael Foster. The I.biliottii plants featured in the photos are divisions of the plant collected by Professor T Baytop who made the identification and collection from plants growing in a graveyard in East Turkey in 1985.
Also a big hat tip to Jill and Alun Whitehead for planting a seed of an idea that became these feature posts.
Photo credit, Lady Christine Skelmersdale and be sure to visit the Broadleigh Gardens Web Site


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