Welcome to the HIPS PCT Project

For questions and comments about the PCT Project, please contact the Coordinator at [email protected].

Bloom season is upon us! Get ready to participate in this year’s HIPS PBF Survey. Read on to find out how to join in. Thanks for your support!

Each year the PCT Project releases a report showing cumulative PBF counts. This year’s updated report is important as inconsistences in the old data have been corrected. See below for important notes concerning interpreting the data.

PBF Survey Cumulative Counts 2020-2022. — Notice. The link has been updated. Access to the document is now direct with no account setup or sign in required.

Quick Links:

What is PBF? What is PCT? Although literally translating to purple-based foliage, the acronym PBF has come to also be used as a general reference for the occurrence of purple colorations in parts of the iris other than the blooms. This usage of the acronym has always been a bit awkward and confusing.

We polled around a bit and decided the term purple coloration types and the acronym PCT would do the job better. It literally encompasses all the various types. We hope people agree this helps clarify things and adopt the usage of PCT as well.

With PCT being a new term it will need promotion.  Use “purple coloration types” or “PCT” when that is what we actually mean, and do not use “PBF” when we mean something other than purple-based foliage.

The purple colors of PCT come from the accumulation of pigments found within a group called anthocyanins. Pigments in this group occur in the blooms as well, helping produce purples, blues and reds. Different factors, both genetic and environmental, determine if and how much pigment accumulates. When PCT do occur they seem to be at their peak during spring and early summer. Further into summer they may fade out completely or become unnoticeable.

A listing of the various PCT:

  • Purple-based foliage (PBF)  – In a general audience it’s good practice to first use the long form at least once before using the acronym.
  • Purple rhizome (PR) – PR being only two letters, it really does help to use full form the first time and perhaps all the time in speaking.
  • Purple-ringed rhizome (PRR)   So close to PR that we need to clarify, “Wasn’t a typo, I mean the rhizome has a purple ring all the way around it.”
  • Purple spathes / bracts / sheaths / bud valves – These terms are used somewhat interchangeably and we don’t see people trying to use acronyms. It’s probably best left that way and to just use the full forms.
  • Purple stalk / stem / branches / pedicels – Same idea of no good acronyms and best used full forms.
  • Purple leaf edge / margin / wire edge – A band of purple along the leaf margin and typically very narrow. No good acronyms and best used full forms.

Click on the link below to go to a page with photo examples and some descriptive comments about the various PCT.

Photos of Purple Coloration Types

The HIPS PBF Survey

The occurrence of PCT is underrepresented in the descriptions of irises and in the general literature. One goal of the Survey is to help correct this underrepresentation. We estimate two in ten irises are capable of displaying PBF.  Within the 8,000+ cultivars reported to the Member Databank there are likely to be hundreds of PBF irises yet to be reported to a central list. Since so many of our irises are grown by only one or two members it will take a lot of scouters to find and report them all. YOU may be the key person to get an unrecognized PBF iris on the books.

Display of PBF is useful to the verification and identification process. But there are caveats. Display can be variable within the same cultivar and even within the same clump. (See the photos.) Time of year, soil chemistry, weather and other factors can influence display. It’s possible a PBF-capable iris may at times display no PBF at all. Also, some reported irises might be incorrect. PBF is a useful tool but it must be considered along with other pieces of the ID puzzle. With the help of the members, we will compile multiple observations for each iris and see if any patterns are suggested.

Annual Cumulative Counts Report

Survey results are updated annually. A link to the most recent report is provided at the top of this page.

Please note, before using the document for the first time please click on the small “i” icon next to the document title to see important use guidance information.

As is seen in the report there are some irises being reported with mixed PBF-yes / PBF-no observations. This can be expected since occurrence of PBF is a variable trait. It reinforces the desire for multiple reports on each iris to help determine its degree of variability.

Becoming aware of mixed yes/no observations requires people to report PBF-no observations as well as PBF-yes. So, we are very appreciative of reporters who include PBF-no observations.

Annual PBF Survey Instructions

Survey instructions are found below. They are also provided in this document that you can print out. Survey Instructions.

The survey focuses on PBF observations made during the irises spring bloom period. If someone wants to submit observations of PBF or other PCT outside the spring bloom period please submit as a separate report. These are welcome but still do try to make spring bloom your top priority.

TIP! – If you have already reported on some named iris then there is no need to report on that name again unless you note it’s PBF behavior changed, before was Yes and then became No, or vice-versa. This makes it a less onerous task to prepare yearly reports.

The Survey is open to anyone whether they are a HIPS member or not. If your time is limited but you want to participate then please place particular priority on reporting irises that you know are uncommon and rare. The Member Databank will tell you how many members grow a particular iris.

We have created forms that you can use in the garden and to prepare your final report. Download links are below. Reporting instructions:

  • Pieces of information we need are:
    • The iris’ name. Please check for correct spelling
    • Helpful but optional information: The originator (or breeder) of the iris. Iris Class and Introduction date.
    • The observation: a simple Yes (has PBF) or No (no PBF visible)
    • Optional additional helpful comments: Color is faint / Color is pale, etc.
    • Your name and email address or phone number if we need to contact you
    • The observations year
    • Zip code (We are interested in the general climates of reporters.)
  • Observation must be made during the iris’ spring bloom period. This is defined as the time the iris’ spring bloom stalks are emerging up until the last bloom is spent. PBF decision should be made during a direct visual check. Determining PBF from photographs after the fact can be risky! Faint / pale purple is a tricky color in photography.
  • Reported irises should be historic, thirty years old or more. Twenty-nine year old irises may be included.
  • Reports from HIPS non-members are encouraged but please note if you are a non-member.
  • Reported irises need to be confirmed as correct or what some call verified. Reasonable measures the PBF Survey asks for are:
    • The iris came to you already named. Unless you are very knowledgeable and experienced, please do not report on irises you identified from noids or unknowns. In any event, if you do report on an identified noid then please note that as added comment. We will keep the data but we want to flag it.
    • Sources: We don’t need to know your source but preferably you remember it yourself.
    • Confirmation Exam(s) have been made of the reported specimen including the specimen’s blooms.
    • An AIS Iris Encyclopedia check has been made and the iris does not obviously conflict with information found there and/or other reliable sources, e.g. in the HIPS Historic Iris Gallery. (Shaub Dunkley, the current coordinator, will be the first to say that his irises often bloom notably below description heights. And he isn’t overly picky about bloom-season either.)
    • All this said, the Survey Coordinator believes as conservationists, we have to relax the rules a bit for irises that are at-threat of being lost. These are the rare irises where there may be only be one to three HIPS members holding them and the iris may have no retail source. (Sadly, this is true for a very large number of the Member Databank irises.) With such irises the most important thing is to get description data on record for the underlying iris, whatever it is. If you have no reason to doubt your rare iris’ name or are neutral about it, don’t be timid – get the data to the survey team; we can check against the Member Databank and Retail Sources data and do follow ups with you after the fact.
  • We do not keep records on the PBF of noids and unknowns.

What to do if you have two irises obtained under the same name and they look the same except for differences in PBF / PCT? And you can’t find anything in the literature to help sort this out. This can and does happen. Contact us and we can discuss what seems the best course of action.

Survey Form Downloads

The same form is available in several formats. All are already set up to print as letter-sized portrait. Please contact the Coordinator if you have any trouble downloading or opening the file.

PBF Survey Form(Excel .XLS)
PBF Survey Form (Word .DOC)
PBF Survey Form (.PDF)

There are four options for sending in reports. For all options please include all information specified above. Deadline for submitting 2023 reports will be January 31, 2024.

  1. Transfer the observations back to one of the electronic forms provided and email as an attachment.
  2. Create an electronic document of your own and email. Some people submit their own spreadsheet and this is fine.
  3. Type the report into the body of an email and send. This works well for short reports.
  4. Write up the report on paper and mail it in. Contact the Survey Coordinator for a mailing address.

More PBF Articles and lists

The six separate lists named below have been combined into one comparative document which may be viewed by clicking on this link: PBF Irises – Combined Lists. Please note, before using the document for the first time please click on the small “i” icon next to the document title to see important use guidance information.

ID Groundwork: PBF (article)
PBF Iris to 1939 (article)
AIS Iris Encyclopedia PBF page
PBF list on Cubits.org
Shadowood PBF list
Société Française des Iris et plantes Bulbeuses  (PBF list)

More PCT study possibilities?

At this time the PBF Survey is the only active work under the PCT Project umbrella. However, there could be other HIPS PCT surveys or studies active if there are people interested in conducting them. If you are interested in something along these lines please contact the PBF Survey Coordinator to discuss how activities might be coordinated.

Some of us already have personal observation records for other PCT. Potentially these records could be useful to future PCT Project work. If you have such records and are interested in contributing them to the general Project ‘file cabinet’ then contact the PBF Survey Coordinator and we can discuss.

For any questions and comments about the PBF Survey or PCT Project please contact the Survey Coordinator at [email protected]