Iris humilis

From Kazakhstan Encyclopedia

Template:Italic titleTemplate:Taxobox Iris humilis is a species in the genus Iris, it is also in the subgenus of Iris and in the Psammiris section. It is a rhizomatous perennial, from a wide distribution range from Europe to Russia to China, via Mongolia and Kazakhstan. It has sword-shaped leaves, a short stem and yellow flowers with an orange beard. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in temperate regions.

It once had Iris arenaria as a synonym or as a subspecies,it is a yellow dwarf iris only from central Europe. In some sources it is still listed as a subspecies of Iris humilis.


Iris humilis is very similar in form to Iris mandshurica (another Psammiris species), which leaves curve to one side, but it is a shorter plant.[1]

It has thick creeping rhizome,[2][3][4] which is branched,[3] and about 1 cm in diameter.[5] The rhizome has the remains of last seasons leaves on the top.[1]

It has bluish-green,[1][3] gray-green,[6][7] or light glaucous green,[8][9] sword shaped or lanceolate,[2] basal leaves.[5][6] They can grow up to Template:Convert long,[7][8][9] and between 0.2-0.7 cm wide,[1][7][8][10][11] They have incurving tips,[8][11] and they disappear in summer, after flowering.[9]

It has a simple dwarf (or short stem),[12][13] that can grow up to between Template:Convert tall.[2][3][5][6][7][10][11][14][15][16][17]

The stems have 2-3 spathes (leaves of the flower bud), which are lanceolate and are (scarious) membranous at the top of the leaf.[3][8] They have short,[3] 7.5mm long pedicels (flower stalks).[8]

The stems hold between 1 and 3 flowers,[1][3][5][6][8][9][10][17][18] in late spring,[3][11][13] between April and June.[2][3][5][6][8][12][18] The flowers only last for a day,[18] but they sometimes repeat the display.[12]

The vanilla scented,[18] flowers are Template:Convert in diameter,[5][7][8][9][10][11][18] come in shades of yellow,[1][2][3][5][6][7][9][10][11][13][14][16][18][19] including bright yellow.[8][15][17]

The flower buds are normally green, that have a slight tinge of bronze.[8]

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'.[5][20] The falls are oblong shaped, and Template:Convert long and 1.2 cm wide.[8] They are veined brown or purple brown.[6][9][19] They have a central orange beard.[9][10][11][14][17] The shorter,[8][10] standards are Template:Convert long and 0.3 cm wide.[8] The standards are nor erect and this gives the flower a flattish appearance.[10]

It has a 1 cm long ovary and a 0.5 cm long, funnel shaped perianth tube.[8]

It has styles that are shorter than the petals,[10] about 2.5 cm long, they have short narrow crests.[8]

The anthers are cream with green-black edging and the pollen is greenish coloured.[8]

After the iris has flowered, in August,[3] it produces an elliptical seed capsule,[1] which is about 3 cm long.[8] The capsules dehisce (split open), below the apex.[8] Inside the capsules, are wrinkled, light brown,[1] or brown,[3] pyriform (pear-shaped) seeds.[8] They have flat creamy-white aril (or appendage).[8]


As most irises are diploid, having two sets of chromosomes, this can be used to identify hybrids and classification of groupings.[20] It is normally published as 2n=22.[8][9][10][16]

There has been several counts, over the years including 2n=27, Krogulevich 1978, 2n-24, Sokolovskya & Probatova, 1986, 2n=28, Starobudtsev & Mironova, 1990, 2n=28, Malakhova, 1990, 2n=28 Malakhova & Markova, 1994. As Iris flavissima 2n=22, Doronkin.[14] This shows two separate entities.[14]

Since Iris arenaria has a count of 2n=22,[21] This means that Iris flavissima is a synonym of Iris arenaria and 2n=27 or 2n=28 is the true counts of Iris humilis.


It is pronounced as (Iris) EYE-ris (humilis) HEW-mil-is.[15]

It has the common name of sand iris.[6][7][15][22] Although, this name normally refers to Iris arenaria, which was formerly once thought to be a subspecies of Iris humilis, but it is now a separate species in its own right.[21] It is also known as low iris,[1][23] and yellow iris.[2][12][23] Note, that Iris pseudacorus is commonly known as the 'yellow flag' or 'yellow iris' as well.

It is known as Sand-Schwertlilie (meaning sand iris) in Germany.[24]

The Latin specific epithet humilis refers to low growing or dwarfish.[7][25]

It was first published and described by Johann Gottlieb Georgi in 'Bemerkungen einer Reise im Russischen Reich' (Bemerk. Reise Russ. Reich) Vol.1 page196 in 1775.[22][26][27]

Georgi described from specimen plants from near to Lake Baikal, (it was called originally Iris flavissima).[27] Which is now classified as a synonym of Iris humilis.[28]

It was also published by Karl H. Ugrinsky in 'Fedde's Report. Spec. Nov., Beihefte' Vol.14 in 1922.[14]

In 1808, Bieberstein called a plant (from the Caucasus mountains) 'Iris humilis', in 'Fl. Taur.-Caucas' Vol.1 page33. It was later changed (due to Georgi's earlier publishing) and re-classified as a synonym of Iris pontica Zapal. need ref

It was verified by United States Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service on 4 April 2003, then updated 2 December 2004.[22]

Iris humilis is an accepted name by the RHS.[29]

Distribution and habitat

It is native to a wide distribution area, including temperate regions of Asia and Europe.[3][4][5][9][22]


It is found in Europe,[1][3][7][10][16][18][19][29] within the countries of Austria,[6][8][9][10] Czechoslovakia,[9][10] Hungary,[9][10][17] and Romania.[6][8][9][10][22] Although, some or most of these plants could be Iris arenaria, who has a distribution in central and eastern Europe.

It is found within the Siberian region,[1][3][4][8][10][16][17][22] of the Russian Federation,[8][10][11][12][16][19] in the states of Buryatia, Chita, Irkutsk, Magadan, Primorye and Tuva.[22] It is also found in Kazakhstan (formerly part of Russia).[22]

Within Asia, it found in China,[1][3][4][29] within the Chinese provinces, of Heilongjiang, Jilin, Nei Monggol, Ningxia and Xinjiang,[22] It is also found in Mongolia,[1][3][4][8][10][11][12][16][22] and Japan.[1][3][29]

It is listed with Iris glaucescens, Iris lactea, Iris ruthenica, Iris sibirica, Iris tenuifolia and Iris tigridia being found in the Altai-Sayan region (where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together).[30]


It grows in calcareous sandy and stony (or rocky) areas.[6][8] Including (mountain and hill) slopes,[3][4][5][11] meadows,[1][3][4][5][23] steppes,[1][2][3][4][11][23] and on the edges of birch forests,[2][4][6] or pine forests,[1] and beside river banks.[2]

They can be found at an altitude of Template:Convert above sea level.[8]


The iris is rare in various regions,[1][3][4][6][10] especially in European Russia and Ukraine.[10]

It is listed in the Red Book of Omsk and Tyumen regions (of Siberia).[1][3][4]

Many populations of Iris humilis exist in protected reserves including, Azas, Baikal-Lensky, Baikal, Barguzinsky, Sokhondinsky and Ubsunur.[1][4]


It is hardy to between USDA Zone 1 and Zone 6.[10][15] It survives in Siberia, so is cold resistant.[1]

It prefers to grow in well drained soils,[5][7][17] it prefers soils containing sand.[6][18]

It can tolerate mildly acidic or mildly alkaline soils (PH levels between 6.1 and 7.8),[15] including those with lime.[18]

It can tolerate positions in full sun or partial shade.[6][15][18]

It has average water needs during the growing season,[15]

The leaves can be damaged by rust fungi.[3]

It can be grown in rock gardens,[1][7] including rock screes,[17] but needs plenty of space.[8]

It is rarely grown in the UK.[13] To grow in the UK, William Rickatson Dykes recommends to plant the iris, on a 5 cm layer of sand, over garden soil with added leaf mould (or compost).[8]

In 1812, it was grown in gardens near Moscow.[27] It was then tested at botanic gardens in St. Petersburg, Barnaul, Novosibirsk and Chita.[1]


It can be propagated by division (of the rhizome), or by seed growing.[3][5][8][15]

In the wild, some habitats generate poor seed and vegetative propagation.[3]

The plant needs to be hand pollinated (in the UK) to create seed.[8]

Seeds are collected from the dry pods/capsules, when the seeds are ripe.[15]

Seeds need cold stratification, to germinate. They germinate very slowly. In the lab, seeds do not exceed a germination rate of 30%.[3]

Seeds should be sown in trays, in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.[15]

Germinated seedlings, can produce flowers in the second year of growth.[8]

Hybrids and cultivars

Iris humilis cultivars include; 'Borzeana', 'Dahurica', 'Flavissima', 'Flavissima Orientalis', 'Flavissima Phylospatha', 'Stolonifera' 'Transuralensis' and 'Umbrosa'.[14]


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.[15]

Traditional medicine

The rhizomes can be used as part of a Tibetan herbal medicine to regulate menstruation. A powdered form of the rhizome can be used for sepsis and infections.[2]



Other sources

  • Aldén, B., S. Ryman & M. Hjertson. 2009. Våra kulturväxters namn - ursprung och användning. Formas, Stockholm (Handbook on Swedish cultivated and utility plants, their names and origin).
  • Czerepanov, S. K. 1995. Vascular plants of Russia and adjacent states (the former USSR).
  • Mathew, B. 1981. The Iris. 39–40.
  • Tutin, T. G. et al., eds. 1964–1980. Flora europaea.
  • Wu Zheng-yi & P. H. Raven et al., eds. 1994–. Flora of China (English edition).

External links

Template:- Template:Iris subg. Iris
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