This article was originally published in the July 1996 issue of the Canadian Iris Society Newsletter and the January 1996 issue of the AIS Bulletin. The glossary was originally written by Bill Maryott and has been edited by Christopher Hollinshead to provide additional information and enhance and clarify some of the definitions.

This material is primarily written for the many people who are new to irises and who would like to have information about irises which long-time irisarians might call basic. The following information should be helpful when reading iris related articles and or catalogues.

Basic Components/Parts of an Iris Plant

  • Falls: the lower three petals of the iris flower.
  • Fan of leaves: exactly that; each fan of leaves means there is one iris rhizome underneath that fan.
  • Increase: new plants which begin as white waxy looking pointed buds on the sides of the rhizome (sometimes known in some regions as toes). Increases provide an exact clone of the original mother plant.
  • Rhizome: brownish, potato-looking, fleshy portion of the plant that grows at or just below the surface of the soil. The true roots that feed and nourish the plant grow downward from this part.
  • Standards: the upright top three petals of the iris flower.
  • Stem: also called the stalk, that which holds the flower upright. May be straight or gently S-curved.

Iris Bloom Parts

  • Standards (S) – The 3 upper petals.
  • Falls (F) – The 3 lower petals.
  • Beards – Fuzzy area at top of Falls of Bearded types.
  • Signals – Contrasting color on Falls of Beardless types.

Color Patterns

  • Self – Standards and falls are the same color.
  • Bitone – Falls are a darker tone of the standard color.
  • Bicolor – Standards and falls are different colors.
  • Amoena – A bicolor with white standards.
  • Variegata – A bicolor with yellow standards.
  • Blend – One color blended into one or more others.
  • Plicata – Petals are edged in a different color, usually on a white or yellow background.

More Terms and Components

  • Amoena: Bloom color category; white, or tinted white standards, colored falls. Pronounced “ame-nah.”
  • Anther:  Stiff, tiny stem like aperture under the style arm.
  • Beards:  The fuzzy, caterpillar like hairs on the falls, may be thick or thin, self colors or contrasting.
  • Bicolor:  (bloom color category) two different colors.
  • Bitone:  (bloom color category) two tones of the same color.
  • Blend:   (bloom color category) combination of two or more colors.
  • Branch: any branch which appears off the side of the main stem or stalk.
  • Fluting:  gentle dips and rises in the petal edges.
  • Glaciata: (bloom color category) a pale color from plic breeding-no plic marking.
  • Hafts:  The parts of the iris falls to either side of the tops of the beards, also called shoulders.
  • Haft marks: veining on the hafts; sometimes considered unsightly.
  • Halo: a rim of color around the petals, usually contrasting to the main color, not found on plics.
  • Lace: lightly laced irises have serrated edges; heavy lace gives a crinkled, serrated effect which may affect the opening of the petals.
  • Luminata: (bloom color category) pale yellow or near white style arms with pale white or yellow veining on falls.
  • Midline stripe: a stripe of usually contrasting color down the middle of the falls.Mid-rib: the stiffened mid-section of the standards which hold them upright.
  • Peppering: found on plicatas — as if you shook a pepper shaker of contrasting color over an iris with a yellow or white background color.
  • Plicata: (bloom color category, also called plic) stitched, stippled or banded color in contrast to the base color.
  • Pollen: powder-like grains which form on the anther.Reverse amoena: (bloom color category) darker standards and white or tinted white falls.
  • Ruffles: waving and fluting of the iris petals; some irises more heavily ruffled than others.
  • Self: (bloom color category) refers to an iris with all petals of one color.
  • Spathe: the papery, eventually brown, covering of the emerging bud. This papery covering eventually covers the ovary of the iris as the flower emerges from bud stage.
  • Spur: a short side stem which may or may not be near the top of the stem or stalk
  • Stigmatic lip: the lip like petal under the style crest which receives the pollen
  • Stitching:  may go with “peppering” as if one had button-hole stitched around the edges of the falls or all of the petals. “Stitches” may be so close together as to look like a thin or thick solid rim around the petals.
  • Style crest: the upward curving of the top of the style arm. The style crest may be plain, serrated or fringed.
  • Substance: thickness of petals.
  • Texture: the  finish or sheen of the petals.
  • Variegata: (bloom color category) yellow or near-yellow standards with deeper falls color, which may be either varied or solid tones of brown or purple. Variegatas are normally yellow over maroon.
  • Wire-edge:  a minute rim of color around the edges of the petals.

Standard Abbreviations of Bearded Iris

  • Border Bearded – BB,
  • Intermediate Bearded – IB,
  • Miniature Dwarf Bearded – MDB,
  • Miniature Tall Bearded – MTB,
  • Standard Dwarf Bearded – SDB,
  • Tall Bearded – TB

Standard Abbreviations of Beardless Iris

  • Siberian – SIB,
  • Spuria – SPU,
  • Louisiana – LA,
  • Japanese – JI,
  • Pacific Coast Native – PCN,
  • Species – SPE,
  • Aril iris – AR (oncocyclus and regelia are grouped together under this term).

Example of a Catalog Listing

‘HONKY TONK BLUES’ (Schreiner 1988) A very ruffled flower with a novel blend of shades of blue and white. H=37  S=M  HM90  AM92  WM94  DM95  $price

The listing terms explained…

  • Name of the iris: that name chosen by the hybridizer, approved by the AIS registrar.
  • Hybridizer: the person who created the iris. This name immediately follows that of the iris.
  • Year of introduction: the year which immediately follows the name of the hybridizer. This is the year that the iris was first offered for sale and advertised in a catalog.
  • Year of registration: the year in which the hybridizer registers the iris with the AIS Registrar. This may or may not be the same as the year of introduction. Most catalogs show the year of introduction rather than the year of registration. The description of the flower is followed by any combination of terms including:
  • H: is the height in inches/centimeters as designated by the hybridizer. In the bearded iris categories the iris are divided into sections dependent on their height.
  • S: is the blooming season.
  • E-M-L-RE: Early, Mid-season and Late. By adding the letter V, we may have terms such as VE which would mean very early, etc. These terms may be used as a guide. It indicates the time of season the iris bloomed in the hybridizer’s garden (but is relevant everywhere in terms of when the particular iris variety flowers during the iris bloom season). RE this term generally indicates rebloom at some time other than Spring.
  • HM, AM, WM, DM: are the awards won and year.
  • HC: highly commended;
  • HM: honorable mention;
  • AM: award of merit;
  • DM: Dykes medal, highest award an iris may win.