Garden and Forest 5(227): 429-430 (Sept 7, 1892)
Iris Lorteti
M. Foster, in the Gardeners' Chronicle.

THIS most beautiful Iris, belonging to the Oncocyclus section, was discovered some years ago between Meis and Hounin, in South Lebanon, by Dr. Lortet, the accomplished naturalist of Lyons. It was described by Barbey, Herborisations au Levant, p. 178, 1882, who there gives a large colored figure of it. Thanks to the unwearied zeal of Mr. Max Leichtlin, a considerable stock of roots has recently been imported from Palestine.

The Oncocyclus group of Irises is best known through Iris Susiana, which has been in cultivation in western Europe for more than two hundred years, and is still more widely grown than any other member of the group. I. Susiana has its home in western Persia, and stretching away toward the Caucasus lives the next best-known, I. Iberica. This part of the world may, indeed, be regarded as the centre of the group, and as we pass westward along the southern regions of Asia Minor we find several forms, more or less closely allied to I. Susiana, all of them beautiful. Near Mardin grows the lovely I. Gatesii, not far off the striking I. Heylandiana, more to the west, in Cilicia, the handsome I. Saari, and in Palestine is found an Iris which, sent to me from the neighborhood of Nazareth, I exhibited at the Royal Horticultural Society some two or three years ago under the provisional name of I. Saari, var. Nazarena.

Iris Lorteti, in general features, comes very close to I. Saari, and especially, perhaps, to I. Nazarena, but its wonderful coloring puts it by itself as, perhaps, the most beautiful Iris in the world. In the specimens gathered by Lortet, the outer segments are described and figured as showing a very pale blue ground covered with crimson spots, which, scattered sparsely over the marginal parts of the fall, are concentrated into a dark crimson patch or "signal" in the centre beneath the end of the style; the inner segments, or standards, are similarly described as being of a delicate pale rose. In a plant flowered this summer by me, the falls showed a creamy yellow ground marked with crimson spots, concentrated at the centre into a dark crimson signal, while the standards were nearly pure white, marked with very thin violet veins hardly visible at a distance.

I learn that the plants imported by Mr. Max Leichtlin show considerable variation in color; apparently, however, the "note" of the plant is a peculiarly charming combination of crimson spots, and blue or violet veins, on a white or creamy yellow ground.

The flower figured by Barbey is as large as that of an ordinary, or rather smaller I. Susiana. It is perhaps hardly necessary to add that the flower has the characteristic features of its allies; an oval fall convex from side to side as well as reflexed vertically, bearing a loose beard of scattered hairs, an orbicular, erect standard, and a nearly horizontal style lying close on the claw of the fall, and bearing conspicuous semicircular crests.

Barbey describes the leaves as being very narrow, though his figure somewhat contradicts this, and in the plants grown by me the leaves are very distinctly broader and more ample than in I. Susiana; indeed, it appears to me to promise a larger foliage than is possessed by any other Oncocyclus Iris.

As regards cultivation, I have come to the conclusion that all these Palestine Oncocyclus Irises should be treated in this country by the "taking up" method—at least, until they have become acclimatized, if ever they do. But one or two points appear to be essential for success by this method. In the first place, they should be planted quite late—say in October, or even in November, according to climate; this prevents their making any growth of leaves before winter comes on. In the second place, they must be protected during winter and early spring, so that the young shoots receive no injury from frost. As soon as the foliage, after flowering, begins to lie down, they should be taken up, well ripened in a sunny greenhouse, and kept absolutely dry until it is time to plant them again. The object of this treatment is to secure their not making any very active growth until fairly warm weather sets in, so that when they are hardest at work they may be comforted by genial sunshine, and not buffeted by autumn rains and winter frost as they are when they are left in the ground or planted in early autumn.

[The natural conditions of climate in large portions of California are such as are required for the successful growth of this beautiful section of Irises which grow under similar conditions to the Calochorti and Brodiaeas. The Oncocyclus Irises would be a gain to the already rich flora of California, and, incidentally, would probably prove profitable plants for export—ED.]