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 xiphium L.

A vigorous, hardy, bulbous iris with lance-shaped leaves and pale to deep blue or violet, occasionally yellow or white, flowers in spring or summer.  To 60cm.  [RHSE, Hortus].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

Introduced to Britain in 1596.  It is one parent of the Dutch iris.  [JD, Lynch]. 

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine gives some insights into the probable origin of the latter.  ‘A native of Spain, growing, according to Clusius, in the country about Valladolid, to Quer (who by the bye speaks of a plant with white outer laminae) in the green-oak woods of both the Castiles; Desfontaines tells us he found it in Algiers; but it remains to be ascertained if he means the precise species we are now describing.  It is perfectly hardy and propagates rapidly by offsets, of which it produces abundance; cultivated here in 1633, by Gerarde.

The best roots are said to be those annually imported by the seedsmen from Holland.  There are many varieties of it, but not so many as are usually supposed; on this head we shall however defer our observations till we have an opportunity of further confirmation; we suspect many of them to be hybrids between xiphioides, lusitanica, juncea, our present plant [Iris xiphium], and perhaps also alata, and probably yet more perfectly distinct species.’  [BM t.686/1803].  

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.260/1843].  ‘Spanish Iris’ is recorded as received per ‘Sovereign’ February 1831.  [MP A2948].


Iris xiphium Georgi = Iris rossii Bak.

Iris xiphium Jacq. = Iris xiphioides Ehrh. which see.

Iris xiphium Desf. (1798) = Iris fontanesii Godr.

Published Nov 08, 2009 - 04:06 PM | Last updated Jul 23, 2010 - 05:17 PM

Shown is a beardless iris with narrow leaf, purple standards and blue and yellow falls. Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.686, 1803.

Iris xiphium L. | BM t.686/1803 | BHL

Family Iridaceae
Region of origin

Southern western Europe

  • Iris hispanica Hort. ex Steud.
  • Iris spectabilis Spach
  • Iris taitii Foster 
Common Name

Spanish Iris

Name in the Camden Park Record

Iris xiphium 

Confidence level high