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 germanica L. var. florentina (L.) Dykes

Fully-hardy, rhizomatous bearded iris with fans of sometimes evergreen, grey-green leaves and sparsely branched stems bearing strongly-scented white flowers, smaller than I. germanica, in early spring.  To 1.2m.  Paxton’s Dictionary describes a variety, minor, with grey flowers.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘A native of Italy and other parts of the South of Europe; grows plentifully on the walls of Florence; cultivated here by Gerarde in 1596.  Desfontaines found it in Algiers, where it is sown with germanica about graves; he doubts if they are specifically distinct.  The dried root of this plant was formerly used in medicine, but is now confined to some insignificant lozenges as an expectorant, and to the manufactory of the perfumer, to whom it is know by the name of Orris or Orris Root, being used to give certain articles, such as hair powder, the scent of violets; that which is used for these purposes however is imported from Leghorn, as what is produced in our climate has neither the flavour nor other qualities of the Italian root.  Ray says the pigment called Verdelis or Iris-green is made from the flowers of this species, while Haller and others say from those of Iris germanica.

It is perfectly hardy; is propagated by parting its roots in Autumn; not quite so common in our gardens as Iris germanica, from which it differs in the colour of its flowers and leaves, in the scent of its dried root, in having its spathes more sphacelate or membranous, and the tube of its corolla not so much longer than its germ as in that.  Skynner has derived Orrice from Iris.’  [BM t.671/1803]. 

Images of Iris florentina are carved on the walls of the temple of the Egyptian King Thutmosis III.  Introduced to Britain in 1596.  [JD]. 

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.234/1843].


Iris florentina Kunze (1846) = Iris albicans Lange.  This plant is often called ‘Heritage white’ in Australia and confused with the true ‘Orris root’.

Published Oct 31, 2009 - 04:41 PM | Last updated Jul 23, 2010 - 05:30 PM

Illustrated is an iris with grey-green leaves and white flowers with yellow beards.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.671, 1803.

Iris germanica L. var. florentina (L.) Dykes | BM t.671/1803 | BHL

Family Iridaceae
Region of origin

Probably Mediterranean

  • Iris florentina L.
Common Name

Orris root

Name in the Camden Park Record

Iris Florentina 

Confidence level high