From Irises: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia by Claire Austin:
“The bearded iris gains its name from the line of thick hairs that emerges from the throat of the flower. These hairs form a long, furry caterpillar towards the back of the falls, and their purpose is to guide insects, such as bees, towards the pollen. Bearded irises are the largest group with the greatest number of cultivated varieties. They are also the most popular group of irises for garden use.
“In the wild, bearded irises grow in an area that stretches from the Mediterranean to Southeast Asia and from the Arabian Peninsula north to southern Russia. They usually are found in a sunny place where the soil is poor and well drained. The flowers, which always have large petals, are borne on stiff stems above broad, sword-like, and usually soft green leaves. These form a handsome clump that is invaluable in a garden.”
From “Over the Rainbow: Bearded Irises and Your Garden” in A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts by Kelly Norris:
“The citrusy range of tones we call orange makes my mouth water. Orange bearded irises sparkle and gleam on warm spring days, the perfect show for a mid-afternoon stroll through the garden with a mimosa….
“The history of orange bearded irises… traces back to breeding efforts with yellows and pinks, work that was by no means easy. Some of the first orange-colored irises, blends of off-colors or faint allusions to orange by present definitions, lacked good floral substance and architecture. Some of the best examples of these new colors came from crosses involving median irises… and early dwarfs… coupled with further line breeding and use of apricot-colored irises that were the by-products of pink breeding. Many breeders have risen to the challenge of developing orange irises with distinctive colors, good form and substance, and sound growing habits.”
Hello! More irises!
This is the first of two posts featuring irises from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens whose pink, peach, and orange colors caught my eye, so I gathered them together.
Like many irises, these all have beards, but don’t need to shave. I learned recently about the evolution of the iris’s beard from a delightful documentary called Plant Odyssey, which takes you on a tour through the culture and history of four influential flowers: roses, waterlilies, tulips, and irises. The documentary describes how the iris modified its own structure to develop beards in coevolution with pollinating bees, and how the shapes and colors of the beards are visually interesting to the bees, but also help dislodge pollen.
Those irises producing beards that attracted more bees were more frequently pollinated, giving them a selective advantage — and leading them to produce longer and more brightly colored beards, in order to — you guessed it! — attract even more bees. You can read a little about how this process works on Wikipedia (at this link) — but if you have a Discovery Plus subscription (either from Discovery Plus or Amazon Video), the documentary is a very compelling watch.
My iris posts for this year (so far) are:
Thanks for taking a look!