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- Subject: H. tuberosus
- From: Bill Shear <BILLS@hsc.edu>
- Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 09:30:32 -0600 (MDT)
Here are the paragraphs from my forthcoming book that apply to
Hermodactylus tuberosus is the only species of its genus, a genus evidently
closely related to Iris, with flowers that fit the typical iris pattern.
In fact, in both flowers and foliage, it closely resembles a Reticulata
Iris. Look at its underground parts, though, and the similarities
dissappear; this iris impersonator grows four to six inches tall from
small, thick yet brittle, dahlia-like tubers. And indeed, the color of the
bloom is also unusual. It's apple green, with a blackish purple spot on
each fall petal. The English name is hard to account for, but perhaps the
emerging flower buds do look a little like a snake's head. 7B-11
Common around the Mediterranean from France to Israel, the Snake's
Head Iris is an early bloomer, following hard on the heels of the
Reticulata Irises and in company with the Miniature Dwarf Bearded hybrids.
The tubers are sometimes available from mail-order bulb dealers and are
usually quite inexpensive. They should be planted a few inches deep in a
light, limy soil that is not too fertile. Hardiness is a question. German
expert Fritz Koehlein suspects it is not fully hardy in northern climates
and recommends pot culture, preserving the pots from frost. However, I've
grown and flowered this unusual plant outside in the mountains of northern
Pennsylvania, where winter temperatures regularly drop well below zero.
Admittedly it was at the base of a south-facing foundation, but I think
Hermodactylus might be hardier than generally thought. Like most
Mediterranean plants, it likes dry heat in the summer and quickly
multiplies when planted against walls that both reflect heat and provide
some protection from summer rains. Alkaline to neutral soils are best,
and go easy on the organic matter. A fertile sandy loam gives good results.
Pot culture, much as outlined for the Juno Irises in this chapter,
is another way to succeed with the Snake's Head Iris, and I suspect it
might soon take over a bulb frame!
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943