I.D. Groundwork: PBF

I.D. Groundwork: PBF

Phil Edinger, ID Chairman

Originally printed in ROOTS, spring 1992.

In previous issues of ROOTS I’ve mentioned–even harped upon–the importance of noting the color of leaf bases. While you’ll find that perhaps eight out of ten different irises will have totally green leaves, the remaining two will have purple-based foliage. And when you confront an unnamed “antique,” the presence or absence of purple can help immensely in the process of elimination on your quest to establishing identification. It can help, that is, IF you know what historic irises possess this telltale coloration. The following list is presented as an aid to making such quick distinctions.

Unfortunately, few publications mention foliage character, most descriptions focusing instead (naturally!) on flower appearance. Printed resources therefore are slim. This list was prepared from personal observation and from descriptions in these publications: Rainbow Fragments (Shull, 1931); Cornell Extension Bulletin 112 and Memoir 100 (A. W. W. Sand, June 1925 and July 1926); Iris Chronicle #11: E. B. Williamson; Bulletin of the American Iris Society 6, 7, 9, 12, 29, and 53: Description of Varieties, parts I through VI (R. S. Sturtevant). Time period extends from the earliest named hybrids through 1939 introductions.

The list has a couple of shortcomings. First, it falls far short of listing all pbf (purple based foliage) irises that were named during that time period. So if you have a presumably pre-1940s pbf unknown that fits nothing on this list, don’t despair. Even those writers who noted the character in descriptions weren’t 100% consistent: Shull caught a few that Sturtevant missed, and vice-versa. (One is tempted to wonder which irises both missed.) The second limitation, of course, is that the list stops at 1940-and 1930s-looking irises were being introduced in the next decade.

The best time to check for pbf is from just before bloom through summer. When growth begins in late winter or early spring, not all irises on this list will immediately show purple. Those that strongly display it will, but those more lightly tinted Jeb Stuart, for example-color up only after fans are about half grown. To slightly confuse matters, there is a group I think of as ‘ephemeral purple’ which show a strong wine-colored basal stain as growth begins but which fade to all-green by the time flowering is finished. These are all, I believe, derived from the large pallidas but are not all diploids. You see this sort of purple clearly in Odoratissima, Princess Beatrice, and some of the Dalmaticas, as well as in Souv. de Mme. Gaudichau and a number of her descendants.
In our search for historical irises, we’re all bound to collect misidentified specimens. I mention this simply because I have run across, on more than one occasion, purple-based impostors circulating under the names of these all-green-leafed irises: Bruno, Eclador, and The Red Douglas.


Adonis (Lémon 1840)
A. E. Kunderd (Fryer 1917)
Alice Harding (Cayeux 1933)
Alvares (Lémon 1854-55)
Alta California (Mohr-Mitchell 1931)
Always (White 1937)
Anne Leslie (Sturtevant 1918)
Anosia (Williamson 1925)
Apollon (Lémon 1840)
Aristocrat (Cleveland (1920)
Aurifero (Mohr-Mitchell 1927)
Autocrat (Cleveland 1920)
Avalon (Sturtevant 1918)
A. W. Latham (Fryer 1919)
Aztec Copper (Kleinsorge 1939)
Azure (Bliss 1918)
Bacchus (1857)
Balmung (H. Sass 1939)
Barton Harrington (Fryer 1919)
Berkeley Copper (Salbach 1936)
Bianca (Millet 1912)
Bismark (Dutch, 1888)
Bluebonnet (Egleberg 1931)
Blue Hill (H. Sass 1931)
Bronze Beacon (Salbach 1932)
Byzantium (Ayres 1934)
Calcutta (Kleinsorge 1938)
Camelia (Fryer 1919)
Cantabile (Williamson 1930)
Carnation (Sturtevant 1926)
Catalosa (Farr 1912)
Chelles (Buster, before 1896)
Cherubin (Vilmorin 1911)
Ciceron (Lemon 1855)
Cinnabar (Williamson 1928)
Copper Cascade (Kleinsorge 1939)
Coronation (Moore 1927)
Cretonne (Bliss 1919)
Dalila (Denis 1914)
Dauntless (Connell 1927)
Dejazet (Vilmorin 1914)
Dolly Madison (Williamson 1927)
Donna Maria (Lémon 1840)
Duchess of Wellington (old; listed by Farr, 1908)
Dusky Maid (Bliss 1919)
Eckesachs (Goos & Koenemann 1920)
Elaine (Shull 1925)
Elsa Sass (H. Sass 1939)
Ember (Sturtevant 1923)
Enchantress (Parker 1873)
Erin (Morrison 1930)
Evolution (Cayeux 1929)
Exquisite (Parker 1874)
Fabian (1858)
Fairy Queen (Salter, before 1859)
Far West (Kleinsorge 1936)
Fiesta (White 1936)
Flamingo (Williamson 1929)
Florence Barr (Barr 1876)
Fryer’s Glory (Fryer 1919)
Gajus (Goos & Koenemann 1906)
Gaucho (Williamson 1935)
Genevieve Serouge (Cayeux 1931)
George J. Tribolet (Williamson 1926)
Gloriole (Gage 1933)
Glowing Embers (Sturtevant 1923)
Glowport (DeForest 1939)
Golden Majesty (Salbach 1938)
Goldfish (Wareham 1934)
Good Cheer (Sturtevant 1934)
G. P. Baker (Baker 1930)
Gypsy Queen (Salter, before 1859)
Hermitage (Kirkland 1931)
Hiawatha (Farr 1913)
Honorabile (Lemon 1840)
Ishtar (Sturtevant 1925)
I. variegata (some clones)
Jacquesiana (Lémon 1840)
Jeb Stuart (Washington 1932)
Joseph’s Coat (Katkamier 1930)
Jumbo (J. Sass 1927)
Kaleidoscope (Katkamier 1929)
Kalinga (Kleinsorge 1934)
Kestrel (Morrison 1922)
Khedive (Barr 1884)
King Midas (Mead 1928)
Largo (Ashley 1931)
Leander (Bliss 1920)
Lodestar (C. Hall 1925)
Loreley (Goos & Koenemann 1909)
Magnate (Sturtevant 1918)
*Magnifica (Vilmorin 1920)
Malvina (Lemon 1857)
Maori King (Ware 1890)
Maori Princess (Shull 1923)
Mareschal Ney (Williamson 1930)
Marsh Marigold (Bliss 1919)
Mary Geddes (Stahlman-Washington 1931)
Matterhorn (J. Sass 1938)
*Meldoric (Ayres 1931)
Miss California (Salbach 1937)
Mithras (Goos & Koenemann 1910)
Mme. Cheri (Sturtevant 1918)
Mme. Henri Cayeux (Cayeux 1924)
Monterey (Mohr-Mitchell 1929)
Montezuma (Farr 1909)
Mrs. Andrist (Fryer 1919)
Mrs. Cowley (Bliss 1920)
Mrs. Fryer (Fryer 1917)
Mrs. H. F. Bowles (Perry 1923)
Mrs. Horace Darwin (Foster 1873)
My Maryland (Sheets 1930)
Nancy Orne (Sturtevant 1921)
Navajo (Farr 1913)
Neglecta (Hornemann 1813)
Neon (Salbach 1934)
Nepenthe (Connell 1927)
Nibelungen (Goos & Koenemann 1910)
Nine Wells (Foster 1909)
Opaline (Williamson 1930)
Orloff (H. Sass 1937)
Parthenon (Connell 1934)
Pfauenauge (Goos & Koenemann 1906)
Picador (Morrison 1930)
Plurabelle (Cayeux 1933)
President Pilkington (Cayeux 1931)
Prestige (Sturtevant 1918)
Purple Lace (Sturtevant 1922)
Quaker Lady (Farr 1909)
Radiant (Salbach 1936)
Rajput (Sturtevant 1922)
Red Radiance (Grinter 1931)
Rhapsody (Williamson 1937)
Rhein Nixe (Goos & Koenemann 1910)
Romany (Bliss 1919)
Romeo (Millet 1912)
Rose Madder (Sturtevant 1920)
Royal Coach (H. Sass 1939)
Ruth Pollock (H. Sass 1939)
Sable (Cook 1938)
Sacramento (Mohr-Mitchell 1929)
Salonique (Cayeux 1923)
Sambucina (natural hybrid)
Sandakan (Williamson 1930)
Sandia (Williamson 1934)
Selene (Connell 1931)
Sherbert (Sturtevant 1918)
Sherwin-Wright (Kohankie 1915)
Solana (Shull 1923)
Song of Gold (Essig 1937)
Speciosa (before 1830)
Springmaid (Loomis 1932)
Sudan (Bliss 1921)
Taj Mahal (Sturtevant 1921)
Talwah (Williamson 1930)
Tancred (Sturtevant 1924)
The Black Douglas (J. Sass 1934)
Thorbecke (Veitch, before 1897)
Tintallion (Sturtevant 1921)
Treasure Island (Kleinsorge 1937)
Tristram (Bliss 1919)
Troost (Denis 1908)
Vishnu (Sturtevant 1931)
Wabash (Williamson 1936)
White Goddess (Nesmith 1936)
Zingara (Williamson 1928)
Zuni (Ayres 1931)*probably an erroneous notation

~ Reprinted from ROOTS, Vol 5, Issue 1, Spring 1992.