Iris cuniculiformis

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Iris cuniculiformis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Iridoideae
Tribe: Irideae
Genus: Iris
Subgenus: Iris
Section: Pseudoregelia
Species: Iris cuniculiformis
Binomial name
Iris cuniculiformis
Noltie and K.Y.Guan

Iris goniocarpa var. grossa Y.T.Zhao [1]

Iris cuniculiformis is a species in the genus Iris, it is also in the subgenus of Iris and in the Pseudoregelia section. It is a rhizomatous perennial, from China, it has long and thin green leaves, and 1 lilac (or similar shade) large flowers, that have yellow or grey beards. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in temperate regions.


It has very short upright rhizomes,[2][3] that are 1.5 cm long and 0.7 cm in diameter.[4] It has fibrous secondary roots underneath the rhizome.[4] It slowly forms dense clumps of plants.[2][3][4]

It has dull,[2] or dark green leaves,[3] that are 13.5–30 cm (5–12 in) long and 0.2-0.9 cm wide.[2][4] They are pointed at the apex (lanceolate-like),[4][5] and have inconspicuous veins.[2][4]

It has a slender stem, that can grow up to between 14–30 cm (6–12 in) tall.[4][6][7]

The stem has 2 or more, spathes or bracts (leaves of the flower bud),[2][4] they are 3–5 cm (1–2 in) long.[2][4] The spathes are green, elliptic (in shape),[2] and have a purple tinge at the base of the leaf.[4]

The stems hold 1 terminal (top of stem) flower,[2][3][4] blooming between May and July.[2][3][5] The flowers can survive for many days.[4]

The flowers are 6–7 cm (2–3 in) in diameter,[2][4][5] come in shades of lilac.[4] Including pinkish violet,[2][6] mauve,[8] purple,[3][7] lavender,[7] and blue-violet.[5][7][9] They are similar in colour to Iris sibirica flowers.[9]

It (like other irises) has 2 pairs of petals, 3 large sepals (outer petals), known as the 'falls' and 3 inner, smaller petals (or tepals), known as the 'standards'.[10] The falls are 4.25–5.5 cm (2–2 in) long and 1.9 - 2.3 cm wide.[2][4] They have a yellow or grey beard, on a white signal patch.[2][3][4] On the edge of the petal, are purple or violet veins,[2][3][4] mottling or spots.[2][6] The standards are 3–4 cm (1–2 in) long and 1 - 1.2 cm wide.[2][4] They are slightly paler than the falls.[4][6]

It has a 2.8–3.3 cm (1–1 in) long and 1.6 cm wide style.[2][4] Which is similar in colour to the petals, but has pale margins.[4] It has a 1–2 cm long perianth tube, 1-1.4 cm long cream anthers,[2][4] and cream coloured pollen.[4]

After the iris has flowered, between June and August,[2] it produces a seed capsule and seeds. Which have not been described.[4]


In 2006, 13 species of Iris in China, including Iris japonica, Iris wattii and Iris cuniculiformis were studied for a cytological analysis of the chromosome counts.[11][12]

In 2011, a study was carried out on various irises found in China. Including Iris tigridia,Iris bloudowii and Iris cuniculiformis.[13]

As most irises are diploid, having two sets of chromosomes, this can be used to identify hybrids and classification of groupings.[10] It has a chromosome count: 2n=22, the same as Iris dolichosiphon (another Pseudoregelia iris).[11][13] It has also been noted as 2n = 26.[3]


It is pronounced as (Iris) EYE-ris (cuniculiformis) kun-e-ku-lee-for-miss.[7][14]

It is written as 大锐果鸢尾 in Chinese script and known as da rui guo yuan wei in Pidgin.[2] It is translated as large sharp fruit kite Tail.[13]

The Latin specific epithet cuniculiformis refers to being shaped like a small rabbit. From two Latin terms, 'cuniculus' - little rabbit and 'formis' - form or shape.[15] The standards of the flowers are similar in form to rabbits ears. Hence, the name.[4]

A herbarium specimen exists in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh collection. It was found on 12 June 1993, collected by Mr Kunming, (from Edinburgh) on a ridge of a forest in Diqing Prefecture of Zhongdian County, China. At an altitude of 3600m above sea level.[16]

It was first published and described by John Henry Noltie and Kai Yun Guan in 'New Plantsman' Vol.2 Issue3 page131 in 1995.[6][17][18]

It was thought at one time to be a hybrid or synonym of Iris bulleyana,[5] or a synonym of Iris goniocarpa (another Pseudoregelia iris).[3]

It was verified by United States Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service on 4 April 2003, then updated on 2 December 2004.[18]

Iris cuniculiformis is an accepted name by the RHS.[19]

It is listed in Encyclopedia of Life.[20]

Distribution and habitat

Iris cuniculiformis is native to temperate areas of Asia.[18]


It is found in China,[16] in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.[17][18][20] Including, found on Hong Shan mountain.[8]


It grows in the mountains, in open spaces,[3] in grassy plateaus,[2][4][8] and in shrubberies.[8]

It is often found in the same places as Iris bulleyana.[4]

They can be found at an altitude of 3,000–4,000 m (9,800–13,100 ft) above sea level.[2][3]


It is hardy to between USDA Zone 8 (-12.2 °C (10 °F)) and Zone 11 (above 4.5 °C (40 °F)).[7][14] Also RHS rating of H4.[9] In Australia between Zones 2 to 5.[14]

It can be grown in loamy soil which is enriched with compost.[4] It can tolerate mildly acidic (6.1 to 6.5) to mildly alkaline (7.6 to 7.8) ph level soils.[7]

It prefers to grow in full sun,[7] or partial shade.[4][5] It will bloom better, if it receives six or more hours of direct sunlight every day.[14]

It has average (garden plant) water needs.[7]

It may suit a position in the front of a flower border.[14]

It was only recently (around the 90s), introduced to Britain.[4]


It can be propagated by division or by seed growing.[7]

Seeds are collected from the pods after flowering. Seeds are then sown in containers in a cold frame in autumn.[7]


Like many other irises, most parts of the plant are poisonous (rhizome and leaves), if mistakenly ingested can cause stomach pains and vomiting. Also, handling the plant may cause a skin irritation or an allergic reaction.[7]


  1. ^ "Iris cuniculiformis Noltie & K.Y.Guan is an accepted name". (The Plant List). 23 March 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "FOC Vol. 24 Page 311". (Flora of China). Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Chapter I (Part 7) Pseudoregelia" (in French). Retrieved 17 July 2015.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad British Iris Society (1997) A Guide to Species Irises: Their Identification and Cultivation, p. 99, at Google Books
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Iris cuniculiformis ACE 2224". Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Franco, Alain (4 December 2013). "(SPEC) Iris cunuculiformis Noltie & Guan". (American Iris Society). Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Species Iris, Iris cuniculiformis". Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d Basak Gardner & Chris Gardner Iris cuniculiformis, p. 319, at Google Books
  9. ^ a b c "Iris cuniculiformis". (Cotswold Garden Flowers). 
  10. ^ a b Austin, Claire (2005). Irises; A Garden Encyclopedia. Timber Press. ISBN 0881927309. 
  11. ^ a b Shen, Yun-Guang; Wang, Zhong-Lang; Guan, Kai-Yun (2007). "Karyotypes of thirteen species of Iris L. from China". Acta Phytotaxonomica Sinica. 45 (5): 601–618. doi:10.1360/aps06064. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Shen, Yun-Guang; Wang, Zhong-Lang; Guan, Kai-Yun (2007). "Karyotypes of thirteen species of Iris L. from China". Acta Phytotaxonomica Sinica. 45 (5): 601–618. doi:10.1360/aps06064. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c Xiaoying, Bi; Chih, Zhao Wei; Yang, Zheng; Dongsheng, Li (2011). "Orris root crude Chromosome technology and karyotyping" (PDF). Chinese Agricultural Science Bulletin. 27 (13): 157–160. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  14. ^ a b c d e "Iris cuniculiformis". Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "Botanary". Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "Holotype of Iris cuniculiformis Noltie & K.Y.Guan [family IRIDACEAE]". Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  17. ^ a b "Iris". (International Plant Names Index). p. 143. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c d "Iris cuniculiformis". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  19. ^ "Iris cuniculiformis". Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "Iris cuniculiformis". Retrieved 18 July 2015. 

Other sources

  • Wu Zheng-yi and P. H. Raven et al., eds. 1994–. Flora of China (English edition).

External links

  • Media related to Iris cuniculiformis at Wikimedia Commons
  • Has an image of the iris in a garden
  • Image of the iris growing in China
  • Data related to Iris cuniculiformis at Wikispecies
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