Iris imbricata is a species in the genus Iris, it is also in the subgenus of Iris. It is a rhizomatous perennial, from the Caucasus mountains, within Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. It has broad, sword-like, yellow green or light green leaves, slender stem with branches, inflated and overlapping green spathes, and 2–5 yellow, pale yellow or greenish yellow flowers.
It has deciduous (in Winter), erect, ensiform (sword-like), yellow green, or light green, or grey-green leaves. The outer and first leaves, are normally very blunt and rounded. This led to early specimens of the plant were renamed at Kew as Iris obtusifolia, this was later classified as a synonym of 'Iris imbricata' The broad leaves, can grow up to between 30–40 cm (12–16 in) long, and between 2 and 3 cm wide.
The stem has oval, or oblong shaped, green, or pale green, inflated, spathes (leaves of the flower bud). They are also tightly imbricated, or overlapping, and transparent, or membranous at the tip of the bract. They look similar in form to translucent green pea pods.
The large, flowers are 7–10 cm (3–4 in) in diameter, They are larger than Iris flavescens (a synonym of Iris variegata L.), and another yellow flowering iris. They come in shades of yellow, from pale yellow, greenish yellow, (or chartreuse,) to bright yellow, or sulphur yellow. Very rarely, there is a purple form, and also blue forms, were noted by Rodionenko.
Like other irises, it has 2 pairs of petals, 3 large sepals (outer petals), known as the 'falls' and 3 inner, smaller petals (or tepals), known as the 'standards'.:17 The falls are obovate or cuneate shaped, and 5–6 cm (2–2 in) long. They often curl under,:124 or are reflexed. They have 'hafts' (section near to the stem) that are veined with brown, or brownish purple.:124 In the centre of each of the falls, is a white beard tipped with yellow,:124 or yellow, or dark yellow beard. The standards are obovate, and broader than the falls.
After the iris has flowered, it produces a seed capsule, in late July. The capsule and seeds have not been described.
In 1956, a karyotype analysis was carried out on 40 species of Iris, belonging to the subgenera Eupogoniris and Pogoniris. It found that 24-chromosome tall bearded species could be divided into 3 karyotypes of Iris pallida. Iris kashmiriana has 2 pairs of median-constricted marker chromosomes, Iris illyrica, Iris cengialti, and Iris imbricata, lastly Iris variegata, Iris reginae(later classified as a synonym of Iris variegata), and Iris perrieri all have no median-constricted chromosomes.
In 2012, a study was carried out on 18 species of iris found in Iran. (RAPD) markers and other tests were applied to identify genetic differences among species. It concluded that Iris germanica and Iris imbricata are ancient hybrids.
As most irises are diploid, having two sets of chromosomes, this can be used to identify hybrids and classification of groupings.:18 It was counted in 1975 by Gustafsson & Wendelo. It has a chromosome count: 2n=24
The Latin specific epithet imbricata refers to imbricans or imbricatus meaning overlapping like tiles, (leaves, corolla, bracts, scales). Which refers to the plants large, overlapping bracts, or spathes ( bract-like leaves) on the stem.
It was first published and described by John Lindley in Edwards's Botanical Register of Flower Garden and Shrubbery (of London) Vol.31 tab35 in 1845, with an illustration.
John Lindley thought it was possible a variety of Iris squalens (now a synonym of Iris germanica), but had pure lemon-coloured flowers and imbricated short bracts. Iris flavescens (later classified as a synonym of Iris variegata L.) was also confused with Iris imbricata.
Iris imbricata is a 'tentatively' accepted name by the RHS and was listed in the 'RHS Plant Finder' in 2011.
Distribution and habitat
It is found in the Caucasus region,:122 near the Caspian Sea, within (Persia, now called Iran,) Near the Talysh Mountains, Elburz Mountains, Tehran, Mount Damavand and Tar Lake.
It is thought to be easily cultivated.
Hybrids and cultivars
Iris imbricata (and Iris reichenbachii) has been used in plant breeding programmes, in the search for a true blue iris. It was used by Michael Foster and hybridizer Paul Cook, who used the iris to develop reverse blue bi-tones. Then in the 1960s and 70s, Frederic and Mary Megson demonstrated that the iris inhibited anthocyanin pigments, which is used to help breed non-purple bearded irises.
Like many other irises, most parts of the plant are poisonous (rhizome and leaves), and if mistakenly ingested can cause stomach pains and vomiting. Also, handling the plant may cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction.
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