Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Iris susiana L.

Frost-hardy, rhizomatous, bearded iris with stems bearing solitary grey and purple flowers in spring.  To 40cm.  [RHSE, Hortus].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘The flowers of this very singular species are larger than those of any other Iris, each blossom being eight inches across lengthways, and six inches broad.  The ground is white, streaked, spotted, and shaded with a dark chocolate colour.  The main stem rises to about 2 feet high.  It merits a place in every collection of bulbous plants.’  [FC p.147/1856]. 

‘This species, by far the most magnificent of the Iris tribe, is a native of Persia, from a chief city of which it takes the name of Susiana: Linnaeus informs us, that it was imported into Holland from Constantinople in 1573.

Though an inhabitant of a much warmer climate than our own, it thrives readily in the open borders of our gardens; and, in certain favourable situations, flowers freely about the latter end of May or beginning of June.  It succeeds best in a loamy soil and sunny exposure, with a pure air: moisture, which favours the growth of most of the genus, is injurious and sometimes even fatal to this species.

As it rarely ripens its seeds with us, it is generally propagated by parting its roots in autumn.  These are also usually imported from Holland, and may be had of the importers of bulbs at a reasonable rate.  Being liable to be destroyed by seasons unusually severe, it will be prudent to place a few roots of it in pots, either in the greenhouse or in a hot-bed frame during the winter.’  [BM t.91/1789]. 

Introduced to Europe in 1573 by the Austrian Ambassador in Turkey, Busbecq.  It was long believed to be named for Susa, the old capital of Persia, but Dr. West of Beirut pointed out in 1593 that ‘S?san’ is an Arabic word for Iris, a more probable explanation.  FS f.1087-1088/1856.

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.256/1843].


Published Nov 08, 2009 - 02:06 PM | Last updated Jul 23, 2010 - 05:17 PM

Figured is a bearded iris with greyish flowers speckled and marked reddish brown.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.91, 1789.

Iris susiana L. | BM t.91/1789 | BHL

Family Iridaceae
Region of origin

Origin uncertain, probably Lebanon

Common Name

Cushion iris, Mourning iris, Chalcedonian iris

Name in the Camden Park Record

Iris Susiana 

Confidence level