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Re: vesper iris

  • To: Multiple recipients of list <iris-l@rt66.com>
  • Subject: Re: vesper iris
  • From: Bill Shear <BILLS@hsc.edu>
  • Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 07:17:24 -0600 (MDT)

Older books on irises often include the Vesper Iris, then called Iris
dichotoma.  But botanists have decided that this species is too different
from the other members of the genus Iris  to be included any longer, so it
has been exiled to a genus of its own and is now properly called
Pardanthopsis dichotoma.   The name Vesper Iris has stuck, though.

The Vesper Iris is a valuable addition to the iris garden for a number of
reasons.  First of all, it is the last of iris-like plants to bloom, from
high summer into the early fall.  Secondly, it is the only one of the group
that can be grown as an annual, if preferred; seed started early in
February will produce blooming plants late that same summer.  And finally,
it is one of those rare plants that actually puts on an act in the garden.
The flowers open in the early evening over a period of just a minute or two.

With typical leaf fans, sometimes carried on short, jointed stems and
tall,willowy bloom stalks to four feet, abundantly branched, the Vesper
Iris is a good choice for a border, or for mixing into a planting of real
irises for late summer color.  The flowers are small, only about an inch
wide, and indeed look like irises.  They come in colors from pure white to
violet, some with dappling of a darker shade.  Each flower begins to open
around five o'clock in the evening, hence the name.  By morning the
previous day's blooms have curled into tight little spirals, to be replaced
later that day by new ones from the profusion of buds.

Pardanthopsis is easily raised from seed (in fact, plants are hard to
find).  Plant seeds in pots or flats as soon as they are available and
stratify them.  After coming out of cold storage, they will germinate in a
week or two.  Transplant them and keep them growing rapidly if blooming
that summer is a goal.  Set out plants in the garden from four-inch pots
when the weather permits.  Full sun is ideal, in a fertile loamy soil.  The
Vesper Iris is not a long-lived perennial, and most plants will live only
three or four years, eventually making a small clump of a dozen or so fans.
Keep new plants coming on from seed to replace the old ones that die out.

As a measure of its distinctiveness, Pardanthopsis dichotoma has never been
successfully crossed with a real iris, but does form hybrids with the
yellow or orange Blackberry Lily, Belamcanda.   Samuel Norris of Kentucky
developed a particularly attractive strain of these hybrids, which were
given the name xPardancanda norrisi.   The "x" in front of the name
indicates a hybrid between two different genera.   Seeds of these plants,
marketed as 'Candy Lilies' are available from some of the major seed
houses.  They are attractive plants with a very wide range of colors and
patterns.  However, the original strain had flowers that were more
iris-like, and the presently available seed produces blooms like
multicolored Belamcanda.   Perhaps back-crossing to the Vesper Iris would
restore their original charm.  Grow them just as described for

Bill Shear
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943
FAX (804)223-6374

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