Iris milesii

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Iris milesii
Iris milesii I IMG 6615.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Iridaceae
Tribe: Irideae
Genus: Iris
Subgenus: Limniris
Section: Lophiris
Species: I. milesii
Binomial name
Iris milesii

None known [1]

Iris milesii (also known as the red flower iris) is a species in the genus Iris, subgenus of Limniris and in the Lophiris section (crested irises). It is a rhizomatous, beardless perennial plant, native to the Himalayas, India and China. It has pinkish-violet, or pinkish purple, or pinkish-lavender or pinkish lilac flowers, with a fringed yellow or orange crest (or ridge). It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in temperate regions.


It is similar in form to Iris tectorum (another crested iris).[2][3]

It has a short, thick, fleshy, greenish rhizomes,[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] which are 1-1.5 cm in diameter,[4] they are larger than other crested irises.[12] Underneath the rhizomes, are fleshy roots.[2][6][8] The rhizome is marked on top, with marks or scars of previous seasons leaves.[2][6][8] The rhizome produces lateral (non-flowering) shoots, these later become new growth points for the next season.[2][6][8] During the winter months, it goes dormant, the leaves die, leaving the rhizome bare on the soil surface.[5][9]

It has around 8,[2] basal leaves,[2][6][8][12] which are slightly glaucous,[2][5][8][16] yellowish green,[2][11] or greyish green,[4] or pale green.[6][12][13][16][17][18] They are sword-shaped,[4][18] they can grow up to between 30–60 cm (12–24 in) long and 2.5–7 cm (1–3 in) wide.[2][4][6][8][8][13] The leaves are visibly ribbed,[2][6][8][10][11] and change in size along the stem.[2][12][16] They die away in the autumn,[3][5] to re-appear in the summer.[13]

It has slender,[9][14] stems that can grow up to between 30–90 cm (12–35 in) tall.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][12][13][14][15][17][18][19][20] It has 2-4,[2][4] branches,[5][6][11][12][13][14][17][18][19] which are 15–20 cm (6–8 in) long.[4]

Iris milesii and Iris wattii are by far the tallest species of the crested irises group.[21]

The stems have several spathes (leaves of the flower bud), that are 2.5–3.8 cm (1–1 in) long,[4][16] and 2–2.5 cm (1–1 in) wide.[4]

The stems (and the branches) hold between 3 and 4 flowers,[4] in early summer,[7][9] between April to May,[4][5] or May to July.[2][6][13][14] They are short lived, but a continuous display can carry on for many weeks,[2][11][12][14] 8 to 10 weeks.[5]

The flowers are 6–10 cm (2–4 in) in diameter,[4][5][6][13][14][15][16][18] they are smaller than Iris japonica,[9] and Iris tectorum.[3][5] The flowers come in shades of pinkish-violet,[2][6][12][14] or pinkish purple,[3][4][5][9][11][14][16][22] or pinkish lilac,[7][16][23] pinkish-lavender,[8][10][18][20] or pale mauve.[15][19]

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'.[12] The falls are reflexed,[7][23] obovate,[4] 3 cm long,[7] with a blade marked with dark purple, violet or lilac, lines, spots or mottled (streaks or botches),[2][3][4][6][8][11][12][14][16][17][18][19][20] it has a finely fringed,[10] or toothed,[7] orange,[4][11][18] or white,[10][12] or yellow crest (or ridge).[2][6][10][14][16][20] The standards are narrowly obovate, 4–5 cm (2–2 in) long.[4][16] They are self-fertile.[2]

It has articulated pedicels, that are 2.5–4 cm (1–2 in) long.[4][16]

It has a small perianth tube, 1-1.5 cm long,[4][16] 2.5 cm long stamen, milky white anthers, 3 cm cylindric ovary.[4]

It has reddish purple, or lilac style branches, which are 3 cm long with deeply fringed (fimbriated) edges.[4][16]

After the iris has flowered, it produces an ovoid-globose,[4] or ovoid-cylindrical seed capsule,[2][6] between June and August.[4]

It is 2.8–3.3 cm (1–1 in) cm long,[6] with veining.[4] Inside the capsule, are pyriform (pear shaped) black brown seeds,[2][4] with a white aril.[4]


Iris milesii from Jardin des Plantes, Botanical garden in Paris, France

In May 1984, a study was carried out on the rhizomes of Iris milesii, to ascertain their chemical constituency. Several isoflavones (chemical compounds) were found. [5][24]

In December 1884, a further study was carried out on the rhizomes of Iris milesii and Iris kemaonensis(under old spelling 'kumaonensis'). It found several isoflavones in both rhizomes. [25]

Tetra hydroxy-3' methoxyisoflavone (C16H12O7) can be found naturally within the iris,[26] rhizomes.[27]

As most irises are diploid, having two sets of chromosomes, this can be used to identify hybrids and classification of groupings.[12] It has been counted several times, 2n=26, Simonet, 1932 and 2n=26, Chimphamba, 1973.[8] It is normally published as 2n=26.[4][5][10][20]


It has the common names of red-flower iris,[6][22][28] and waterbird iris (in Australia).[23][29]

It is written as 红花鸢尾 in Chinese script,[4] and known as hong hua yuan wei in Pidgin in China.[4][28]

The Latin specific epithet milesii refers to Mr Frank Miles, who introduced it into cultivation in about 1880.[3][12][16][17] These plants were grown from seeds collected by his cousin in the Kulu district to the north of Simla.[3][12][16]

It was first published and described by Michael Foster in Gardeners' Chronicle Volume 20 page 231 in 1883.[4][16][30] John Gilbert Baker also described the iris in Curtis's Botanical Magazine Volume112, tab.6889 in 1886.[16][28]

It was verified by United States Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service on 9 January 2003 and then updated on 1 December 2004.[28]

Iris milesii is an accepted name by the RHS.[18]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Iris milesii

Iris milesii is native to temperate and tropical regions of Asia,[28] within the Himalayas.[5][7][9][10][11][12][13][14][16][17][19][21][29][30]


It is found in temperate Asia, within the Chinese provinces,[9][30] of Sichuan, Xizang and Yunnan.[4][5][28]

It is also found in tropical Asia, within the States and union territories of India, in Himachal Pradesh,[10] Uttar Pradesh,[13] Jammu and Kashmir.[5][13][28]

It is also thought to be found in Tibet.[30]


It grows in the conifer forest margins of hillsides,[5][13][19] in meadows,[5] in open groves (and clearings),[19] and wet valleys.[4][10]

They can be found at an altitude of 1,500–2,700 m (4,900–8,900 ft) above sea level.[5][13][16][19]


They are 'abundant' in the wild.[10]


Flower buds of Iris milesii, from Himachal Pradesh, India.

Iris milesii is very hardy,[14][16][17] to between USDA Zone 3 and Zone 8,[22] or Zone 10.[29] It is not hardy in the North Carolina climate, because it does not survive the winter.[21] It is hardy in UK,[3][11] to −15 °C (or lower for short periods).[13] It is also hardy,[5] to Europe Zone H3,[7] although it still needs a sheltered position.[16]

It is tolerant of normal garden soil,[3] but prefers well drained,[5][14] sandy, peaty soils.[13][14] It does not like lime.[9] It is tolerant of soils that are mildly acidic or mildly alkaline.[22]

It prefers a sunny[13][17][22] or semi-shade position.[14][15][29]

It also has average water needs.[5][22] It prefers to have moisture during the growing season, but it will not survive in waterlogged sites/[10]

It can be grown in mixed flower border,[5][11][15] or rock gardens.[5]

It does suffer virus problems that Iris tectorum.[5]

It is not rarely found in cultivation.[10][13][14][21]


It can also be propagated by division or by seed growing.[5][22]

Although the Iris can produce plenty to seed,[15] propagation via division is quicker and more reliable.[5]


Like many other irises, most parts of the plant are poisonous (rhizome and leaves), if mistakenly ingested can cause stomach pains and vomiting. Also handling the plant may cause a skin irritation or an allergic reaction.[22]


  1. ^ "Iris milesii Baker ex Foster is an accepted name". (The Plant List). 23 March 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v British Iris Society (1997) A Guide to Species Irises: Their Identification and Cultivation, p. 116, at Google Books
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dykes, William (2009). "Handbook of Garden Irises" (PDF). (The Group for Beardless Irises). Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag "FOC Vol. 24 Page 308". (Flora of China). Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa "Chapter II iris clump and other (part3)". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Ahmad, Shaista. "Red Flower Iris". Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey (Editors) The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification (2011) , p. 258, at Google Books
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Walker, Kenneth (13 February 2015). "(SPEC) Iris milesii Foster". (American Iris Society). Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Evansia Or Crested Irises". Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Walker, Ken (24 December 2012). "Iris milesii". (Species Iris Group of North America). Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Cassidy, George E.; Linnegar, Sidney (1987). Growing Irises (Revised ed.). Bromley: Christopher Helm. p. 131. ISBN 0-88192-089-4. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Austin, Claire (2005). Irises; A Garden Encyclopedia. Timber Press. ISBN 0881927309. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Phillips, Roger; Rix, Martyn (1991). Perennials Vol. 1. Pan Books Ltd. p. 216. ISBN 9780330327749. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Iris milesii". Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Stebbings, Geoff (1997). The Gardener's Guide to Growing Irises. Newton Abbot: David and Charles. p. 76. ISBN 0715305395. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Richard Lynch The Book of the Iris, p. 90-91, at Google Books
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h Burgess, Miss J. (16 April 1935). "CRESTED IRISES OF EVANSIA SECTION". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Search for AGM plants". Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h "encyclopedia". (Cotswold Garden Flowers). Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  20. ^ a b c d e "Iris summary" (pdf). 14 April 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  21. ^ a b c d Elizabeth LawrenceThrough the Garden Gate, p. 246, at Google Books
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h "PlantFiles: Red Flower Iris". Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  23. ^ a b c Nick Romanowski Water Garden Plants & Animals: The Complete Guide for All Australia, p. 79, at Google Books
  24. ^ Agarwal, V.K.; Thappa, R.K.; Agarwal, S.G.; Dhar, K.L. (14 May 1984). "Phenolic constituents of Iris milesii rhizomes". Phytochemistry. Regional Research Laboratory. 23 (6): 1342–1343. doi:10.1016/s0031-9422(00)80460-4. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  25. ^ Agarwal, V.K.; Thappa, R.K.; S.G., Agarwal; Mehraa, M.S.; Dhar, K.L. (1984). "Isoflavones of two Iris species". Phytochemistry. 23 (11): 2703–2704. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)84141-2. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  26. ^ John Buckingham and V. Ranjit N. Munasinghe Dictionary of Flavonoids with CD-ROM, p. 639, at Google Books
  27. ^ J. B. Harborne The Flavonoids: Advances in Research since 1980, p. 133, at Google Books
  28. ^ a b c d e f g "Iris milesii". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  29. ^ a b c d "Iris milesii (Water Bird Iris)". Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  30. ^ a b c d "Iris milesii Baker ex Foster, Gard. Chron., n.s., 20: 231 (1883)." Retrieved 29 September 2014. 

Other sources[edit]

  • Chowdhery, H. J. & B. M. Wadhwa. 1984. Flora of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Mathew, B. 1981. The Iris. 75.
  • Nasir, E. & S. I. Ali, eds. 1970–. Flora of [West] Pakistan.
  • Waddick, J. W. & Zhao Yu-tang. 1992. Iris of China.

External links[edit]