Iris japonica fringed iris, also known as ‘shaga’ or ‘butterfly flower’, is a native of China and Japan. It is a species in the genus Iris, it is also in the subgenus of Limniris and in the Lophiris section. It is a rhizomatous perennial plant, with pale blue, lavender or white flowers with an orange or yellow crest. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in temperate regions.
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Iris japonica fringed iris Description
Iris japonica fringed iris is similar in form to Iris confusa, but the leaves are at ground level. It has a short, slender, greenish, creeping rhizomes. It spreads by sending out thin, wiry, long stolons. They are shallow rooted, and form dense carpets and clumps. It is not invasive. It has basal, deep green, or dark green or yellowish green or light green leaves. They are glossy (or shiny) on one side and dull on the other side. They are tinted, reddish purple, close to the rhizome and do not have a mid vein. or lance-shaped leaves, can grow up to between 25–60 cm (10–24 in) tall and 1.5-3.5 cm wide. They are generally described as evergreen, and grow in a broad fan, with arching tips. It has wiry, stout stems, that can grow up to between 25–80 cm (10–31 in) tall. It has 5-12 short, slender branches, (or pedicels) near top of the plant. The stiff pedicels can reach between 1.5–2.5 cm (1–1 in) long. The flowering stem (and branches) grow higher than the leaves. The stems have 3-5 spathes (leaves of the flower bud), which are lanceolate, and 9.5–2.2 cm (4–1 in) long.
The stems (and the many branches) hold between 2 to 4 flowers, in spring and early summer, between March to April (in Japan) or April and May. The flowers are like Iris cristata flowers but paler and fancier. The short lasting flowers open in succession (one after another), for between 2, and 5 weeks. These flowers have a clove pinks aroma. The flattish, flowers are 4.5–6 cm (2–2 in) in diameter, and come in shades of pale blue, or pale lavender, or lilac, or purple, to white. 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’). The falls are elliptic or obovate, with a spreading limb and blue or purple/violet blotching, spots, (or dots) around a central yellow signal patch around a visible yellow, or orange crest. They are 2.5–3 cm (1–1 in) long and 1.4–2 cm wide. The standards are elliptic or narrowly obovate. They are 2.8–3 cm (1–1 in) long and 1.5-2.1 cm wide. The standards spreading to the same plane as the falls, creating the ‘flat’ look. All the petals are fringed (fimbriated) around the edges.
It has a 1.1–2 cm long perianth tube, 0.8-1.2 cm long stamens, white anthers and 7-10mm ovary. It has 0.5-0.75 long and pale blue style branches. The terminal lobes are fimbriated (fringed). After the iris has flowered, between May and June, it produces an ellipsoid-cylindric, non-beaked seed capsule, which is 2.5–3 cm long and 1.2-1.5 cm wide. Inside the capsule, it has dark brown seeds with a small aril.
Iris japonica fringed iris Biochemistry
Tetra-hydroxy-6-methoxyisoflavone, also known as Irilin D (C17H14O7), was found in Iris japonica fringed iris, Belamcanda chinensis (Iris domestica) and Iris bungei. Junipergenin B (Dalospinosin) can be found in the leaves of Juniperus macropoda and the roots of Iris japonica fringed iris. As most irises are diploid, having two sets of chromosomes, this can be used to identify hybrids and classification of groupings. Chromosome numbers in irises have been the subject og numoerous studies. Findings include 2n=54, Kazuao, 1929; 2n=34,36, Simonet, 1932; 2n=36, Sharma & Tal., 1960; 2n=36 Kurosawa, 1971; 2n=31,33,54, Chimphamba, 1973; 2n=54, Mao & Xue, 1986; 2n=28,34,36,54, Colasante & Sauer, 1993; 2n=28, Dong et al. 1994; 2n=28 to 60 and Yen, Yang, & Waddick, 1995. It is a triploid plant (3n chromosomes) that does not produce seed and therefore can not be propagated by vegetative means (seed or division) while in China, it can also be diploid. This is the reason why the Japanese think that a triploid specimen was imported from China to Japan. Then over time, it has become naturalized. Plants growing wild in Japan were counted as 2n=54 for infertile triploid forms. In China, wild forms are counted as 2n=36.
Iris japonica fringed iris Taxonomy
It has the common names of ‘fringed iris’, ‘Putchcock’ or ‘Shaga’ (in Japan), and butterfly flower (in China). It is written as 蝴蝶花 in Chinese script, and known as hu die hua in Pidgin in China. It is written as シ ャ ガ, 射干 in Japanese script. The Latin specific epithet japonica refers to from Japan, even though the plant is thought to have originated in China. Iris japonica fringed iris was first named by Carl Peter Thunberg, (the Swedish botanist) in his 1784 publication, ‘Flora Japonica’. It was introduced to Europe in 1792 from China, by Thomas Evans of the East India Company. It was then first published and described by Thunberg in ‘Transactions of the Linnean Society of London’ (Trans. Linn. Soc. London) Volume 2 page327 on 1 May 1794. The species description was published in Curtis Botanical Magazine in 1797. Iris fimbriata was later classified as a synonym of Iris japonica fringed iris. It has received an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS.
Iris japonica fringed iris Cultivation
Iris japonica fringed iris is very common in cultivation in USA, it is the most commonly cultivated crested iris in the UK. It is hardy to between USDA Zone 7 to Zone 10. It is also hardy to European Zone H3. It is very easy to grow in a Mediterranean climate in sheltered positions. Within the UK, it is hardy in Devon and Cornwall, and some other parts of southern UK. It prefers the protection of a sheltered sunny wall. Some cultivars of Iris japonica fringed iris are more hardy than others. However, an extremely cold winter (or late frosts) may adversely affect the flowering of this species, and the foliage becomes tatty, or browned.
It should be grown in well-drained soils, but moist soils are preferred. It can tolerate neutral or acidic soils (PH levels between 6.5 – 7.8)., though prefers slightly acidic soils (including peat banks). It is not tolerant of salty water. It has average water needs during the growing season, wet or damp conditions during the winter may cause the root to rot. It can tolerate positions between full sun and partial shade, but prefers partial shade. It can be grown in a mixed flower border, as a ground cover plant and can be also grown in containers in sheltered positions. In frost prone areas, it can be grown in a cool greenhouse. The plants are rested in summer (after the spring flowering), and then started again in the late autumn. If it cannot be grown in a cool house, it should be given a sheltered position, with shrubs where it is protected from the morning sun. The stems and dead leaves should be removed after flowering to keep the plant tidy and help it, for next years growth. It does not have any serious disease or insect problems, but pests (such as Thrips, slugs and snails), occasionally damage plants by feeding on the flowers or foliage. Aphid Aulacorthum magnoliae can be found on the plant. It can be susceptible to attack by Japanese Beetle.
Iris japonica fringed iris Propagation
It can be propagated by division or by seed growing. The seed is best sown in a cold frame, as soon as the capsules are ripe. Stored seed can also be sown in a cold frame in the Spring. Seedlings should be pricked out into small pots when large enough. They are then grown for another year in a greenhouse or cold frame. The new plants then can be planted into the ground in late spring or early summer of the 3rd year. Division is best carried out after flowering during July or August. Large clumps of plants can then be re-planted in new sites. Smaller clumps should be potted and grown in a cold frame until there have formed sufficient roots to survive, they then can be planted in the Spring.