Iris germanica L.

German Iris


CC = *
CW = 5
MOC = 7

© SRTurner

Family - Iridaceae

Habit - Rhizomatous perennial forb. Rhizomes lacking conspicuously thickened areas, often somewhat flattened.

Stems - Erect, to 100 cm tall, longer than the leaves, glabrous, glaucous.

Leaves - Basal and reduced on the aerial stems, 30-70 cm long, 25-45 mm wide, erect to stiffly ascending, glabrous, glaucous, acute, entire. Cauline leaves reduced, folded around the stem.

Iris_germanica_leaves.jpg Basal leaves.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Clusters of flowers mostly terminal on the main stem and erect branches, each with 3-5 flowers, the spathelike bracts unequal, 3-6 cm long, herbaceous and green, often with broad, white to light brown or purplish-tinged, papery margins.

Iris_germanica_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Iris_germanica_bract.jpg Bract of inflorescence.

© DETenaglia

Flowers - Fragrant. Sepals 3, spreading to recurved, obovate, 8-12 cm long, 5-6 cm broad at the apex, glabrous except for conspicuous beard of coarse hairs along inner midrib, obovate, usually violet-blue, variously marked with a darker area and a white, yellow, or brown beard and veins. Beard hairs 3 mm long, white to yellow or with some purple, segmented. Petals 3, subequal to the sepals or slightly shorter, erect and folding over fertile floral organs, the tips incurved, glabrous. Style branches (stigmas) 3, 4 cm long, 2 cm broad, with an obvious midvein, receptive only on the adaxial surface. The apical portion 2-lobed, erose. Stamens tucked underneath the style branches (on the abaxial side). Anthers to 1.5 cm long. Filaments glabrous, to 2 cm long. Floral tube 2 cm long, glabrous, greenish and typically with some mottled color. Ovary at the base of the floral tube, 6-valved, 2 cm long, 7-8 mm in diameter, 3-locular. Placentation axile.

Iris_germanica_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Iris_germanica_flower2.jpg Flower.

© SRTurner

Iris_germanica_beard2.jpg Beard.

© SRTurner

Iris_germanica_beard.jpg Beard.

© DETenaglia

Iris_germanica_flower.jpg Color variation.

© DETenaglia

Iris_germanica_white_flower.jpg Color variation.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Capsules (rarely produced) 4-7 cm long, oblong-elliptic in outline, 3-angled, with a single rib at each angle.

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Roadsides, railroads, old homesites, usually persisting or escaped from cultivation.

Origin - Probably native to southern Europe.

Lookalikes - Iris virginica, Iris brevicaulis, and others.

Other info. - This striking species can be found escaped in scattered localities throughout Missouri. It is cultivated nearly worldwide, and many cultivars exist. The plants can vary somewhat in size and greatly in flower color. Flowers can range from white to yellow or red to violet. The way to differentiate this species from others is by the well developed aerial stems, the bearded flowers, and the leafy bracts that subtended the flowers. The bracts should only be papery in the apical half at most. Plants which share the other characteristics but have completely papery bracts are I. pallida Lam.

Photographs taken in Columbia, MO., 4-25-04 (DETenaglia), also near Labadie, Franklin County, MO, 5-2-2021 (SRTurner).