HIST: "Cuba" and the Confirmation of Identity
In a message dated 11/10/99 9:35:55 PM Eastern Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org
<< The lady that gave me Cube says that it's definitely *not* Cuba Libre.
says it's " bi-color blue purple". Does this sound like the original Cuba?>>
Let us look at the situation a bit more closely.
The full Check List entry on this iris is:
*CUBA . DB-B3L (Sheets. N.); R., 1931; (SCHNEEKUPPE X VERDUN)
It tells us that the iris in question was a Dwarf, and that it was a light
blue toned bicolor or bitone without a pronounced red cast.The parents as
listed are a white dwarf and a deep blue dwarf, so there is no compelling
reason to doubt the description. It also tells us that the iris was
registered in 1931 by Earl Wooddell Sheets of Washington, D.C., who issued
catalogs in 1928 and 1929 and died in 1935. The asterix indicates that in
1939 the "variety" was "obsolete".
The term "obsolete" means (AISCL39, p. 3) that the iris was "not listed any
more in catalogs", which does not necessarily mean extinct. This status is
not surprizing since CUBA was "registered" but never "introduced," which
means introduced into commerce. That is what the "N" means after Sheets name
in the entry. The 1949 Check List reiterates this obsolete status, and does
not show the name having been given to another later iris, which has also
been known to happen.
And this extrapolation presupposes that all the info in the Check List is
complete and correct.
CUBA's not having been introduced also means that no contemporary catalog
descriptions are likely be found to note defining traits of the plant, which
would also make identification difficult. Possibly there might be some
mention in the earlier AIS Bulletins or other documents, which would involve
someone digging through them.
I'd personally say it was a long shot that this is CUBA. Not impossible, for
Sheets might have sent a start to someone for evaluation at some point, but a
The first thing you should do is look at the plant and if it is not a
dwarf--- which could conceivably mean something a bit larger than what we
mean by the term today but certainly something considerably smaller than a
TB--then the question is settled.
If it is "dwarf "and blooms something that could conceivably be called light
blue then further examination may be possible, although it is unlikely that
even if this is real that a firm identification can be made since the only
way this generally happens is by side by side comparison of the mystery plant
and a named plant of undisputed provenance. That is, it matches in all
details one that has been grown under its own name for many years and can be
traced back to the original introducer.
If it meets both size and color tests it may be useful to pursue the matter
As a benefit of membership, the Historic Iris Preservation Society offers the
assistance of our ID Chairman in these matters. The usual procedure is that
the member grows the iris in question and at bloom time compiles a full and
detailed description of the plant and all its parts, including what is known
of the actual history of the individual clone in question, and a set of
photos shot according to the formula on the HIPS page. This is sent to the ID
Chairman who examines it all and gives the matter thought. Sometimes the iris
in question is something he has seen so many times before he can ID it right
off the bat. Sometimes requests a rhizome to be sent to him to be grown on
for comparison if he thinks it will shed light on the matter. Then in the
fullness of time, and these things can take a good deal of time, some answers
may come. He may be able to make a tentative identification, or offer some
impressions as to probable origins and dates, or tell you what your iris is
not. The more distinctive the plant the easier it is to do all this.
Blue and purple bitones are typically difficult to ID since there are so many
Everyone enjoys speculating about unknowns and HIPS does not wish to spoil
anyone's fun, or harp about this but we really feel it is best to be very
conservative about assigning firm names to unknowns. You see, we spend a lot
of time cleaning up messes and confusion caused by iris names having gotten
screwed up somewhere along the line.
Information on the mission of HIPS and the many benefits of HIPS membership,
which costs five dollars a year, is found on the HIPS page at:
Commercial Source Chairman
Historic Iris Preservation Society
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