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Iris cristata Iris cristata

Imagine my surprise when I revisited a distant woodland bed here on the farm, that I'd planted a few years earlier with some plants of Iris cristata. I found that I'd inherited a colony numbering hundreds of plants. In fact the colony was so tightly formed that it made a groundcover impenetrable to weeds. Since that day, I've used and recommended Iris cristata extensively as a groundcover to many a gardening friend.

The flower colors and patterns of Iris cristata are one of the most variable that I've ever seen, and there are many named cultivars including several forms of Iris cristata alba. You can see an image at: http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/codea/K700.shtml
I've spent a lot of time photographing many different flower forms of Iris cristata, and have grandiose plans of putting them together in a gallery one of these days when things slow down, so stay tuned.

As the name implies, the specific epithet, cristata means crested and refers to the crest in the falls of the flower. I'd hoped to give you more specific information about the nativity of Iris cristata, but one of my most trusted databases disappointed me. The USDA Plants database, http://plants.usda.gov/ is just what the name indicates. It's usually pretty reliable, although in this case, it shows Iris cristata as "Not Represented" in Greenbrier County WV, the county I call home. I know that it's native here because I've seen it in the wild on several occasions. All in all, I really shouldn't whine, as this database is pretty darn good and I recommend it to you as a fun place to play and learn. In the meantime, I'm emailing them to report the omission.

Although this plant is a prolific flowerer, I can't say that I've ever seen a seed set. Division is very easy though by the rhizomatous runners that it produces.

Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom -
Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom - Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision - Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division - Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class - Liliopsida - monocotyledons
Subclass - Liliidae
Order - Liliales
Family - Iridaceae
Genus - Iris
Species - cristata
Common name - genus - "Iris"
Common name - species - crested Iris, dwarf crested Iris
Synonyms - none that I have found
Native of - Eastern US
USDA Hardiness Zone - zone 5, probably 4, possibly 3
Light preference - Full shade to dappled sunlight
Soil fertility preference - Average
Soil moisture preference - Average to well drained
Bloom time - Mid to late Spring
Bloom color - every imaginable shade of blue
Foliage - Medium green
Spread - forms a tight colony quickly
Height - 6" - 8"
Landscape uses - Naturalizing in a shade or light sun border, woodland or rock garden- Great groundcover
Medicinal uses - None that I have found

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Barry Glick, Sunshine Farm and Gardens
696 Glicks Rd, Renick, WV 24966, USA
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E-mail: barry@sunfarm.com

Last modified February 24, 2009
URL: http://www.sunfarm.com/picks/iriscristata-082543.phtml