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I. susiana

Carolyn Schaffner wrote:

:  A posting from you reminds me that I got a note card from jean
:  Morris, AIS youth chair, with a reproduction of P.J.Redoute's "Iris Suziana",
:  which appears to be an aril -- wonderful black, or dark purple --

:  This note card seems to be from a collection of note cards from the Museum of
:  Fine Arts, Boston, perhaps in their catalogue??

:  Has anyone any information on the real Iris Suziana?? 

It was one of the earliest species to be described (Linnaeus, 1753) and was
widely cultivated in Europe for hundreds of years.  The flower has a
silvery-grey ground, heavily veined and dotted purplish-black, with the dots
converging to a velvety black signal on the fall.  It has also been known as the
"mourning iris" for its somber tones and  even people who do not consider it
"beautiful" agree that it is mesmerizing.  There is a color picture inside the
front cover of the 1982 ASI yearbook.  The veins are not merely colored, but
textured as well.  For years, hybridizers labored to get this type of texturing
in the arilbreds, but the pattern has been quite elusive.  

It was so widely distributed that I certainly don't want to declare it extinct
-- but it now seems to be unobtainable.  I've purchased it from many sources in
the last 20 years, and have received a variety of onco hybrids and even
arilbreds -- but never anything remotely resembling the true I. susiana.
Perhaps because I. susiana was the archtype of the oncocyclus, general catalogs
have used the name generically.  As a result, most (if not all) the plants
growing under this name today are mislabeled -- and not even lookalikes.  

That doesn't mean you can't get something with many susiana traits.  Of the
species currently in distribution, I. kirkwoodii and I. sofarana (syn. I.
calcaria) are most like I. susiana.  Many susiana-type onco hybrids have been
introduced over the years, although I can't say how many are now obtainable.
Recently, David Shahak has offered a beautiful samariae-susiana hybrid, with
large globular form but less intense markings than I. susiana itself.  Well
worth growing.

BTW, although there have been many spelling variants over the years, but today
"susiana" is the accepted form.  

Long-winded, as usual, even though I TRIED to just hit the highlights....

Sharon McAllister (73372.1745@compuserve.com)

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