Family:
Iridaceae Juss.

Iris japonica Thunb.

Iris japonica is common in many parts of China and Japan and was introduced to Europe in 1792 from China by Thomas Evans of the East India Company. It was named in 1794 by Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), a Swedish physician and botanist, who was a protégé of Linnaeus. Thunberg was employed by the Dutch East India Company and visited Japan from 1775-1778 (at a time when Japan was closed to most Europeans) and collected an impressive array of plants.

[UPFC]
Distribution
Biogeografic region: Andean. Colombian departments: Bogotá DC.
Ecology
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: shrubland.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Iris japonica is common in many parts of China and Japan and was introduced to Europe in 1792 from China by Thomas Evans of the East India Company. It was named in 1794 by Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), a Swedish physician and botanist, who was a protégé of Linnaeus. Thunberg was employed by the Dutch East India Company and visited Japan from 1775-1778 (at a time when Japan was closed to most Europeans) and collected an impressive array of plants.

The great botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté included a painting of this iris (known at that time as Iris fimbriata) in his Choix des plus belles Fleurs (1827-1833) (translation: 'Selection of the most beautiful flowers'), a fitting tribute to such a beautiful plant.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

A native of Japan (except Hokkaido), where it is common in wooded hills, and westwards to Burma and Sichuan in China, it occurs from 500-800 m (2,400-3,400 m in southwestern China). It is widely cultivated, and it is possible that the high-elevation plants from southwestern China are naturalised rather than native.

Description

Iris japonica is a perennial that spreads by creeping, above-ground rhizomes that root at intervals. The leaves are sword-shaped, evergreen and shiny green on one side but duller on the other. They are arranged in a broad fan and measure 30-80 cm long and 2.5-5.0 cm wide.

The flowering stems are erect, branched, 30-80 cm long with white, pale blue or purple flowers measuring 5 cm in diameter. The falls (three of the six perianth segments in Iris ) have fringed margins and a yellow-orange crest. The flowers open in succession from March to May. The fruit is a capsule appearing from May-June.

Two popular cultivars include Iris japonica 'Ledger' that has white flowers with purple markings and an orange crest, and I. japonica 'Variegata' with creamy-white striped leaves.

Uses

Iris japonica is widely cultivated as an ornamental, either as an outdoor plant (in sheltered areas) or in a cool greenhouse. It has received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

In Chinese herbal medicine, the rhizome is used to treat injuries, and a decoction of the plant is used against bronchitis, rheumatism and internal injuries.

Cultivation

Iris japonica is easy to grow in warm temperate gardens or a cool greenhouse. Flowers can be susceptible to late spring frosts and will fail to flower after exceptionally cold winter weather.

This species at Kew

Iris japonica can be seen growing in the Duke's Garden.

Kew's Economic Botany Collection contains samples of rhizomes of Iris japonica .

Distribution
Japan
Ecology
Grassy and rocky slopes, open forest margins in hills and among rocks by streams.
Conservation
Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

All parts of both wild and cultivated Iris are poisonous, especially the rhizomes (swollen stems).

[UPFC]
Use Medicines
Medical uses.

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, medicinal.

Native to:

China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Hainan, Japan, Myanmar, Qinghai, Tibet

Introduced into:

Assam, East Himalaya, Italy, Réunion, Vietnam, West Himalaya

English
Fringed iris

Iris japonica Thunb. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Trans. Linn. Soc. London 2: 327 (1794)

Accepted by

  • Akhter, C. & al. (2013). A taxonomic appraisal of genus Iris L. (Iridaceae) in Kashmir himalaya, India. Iranian Journal of Botany 19: 119-126.
  • Colasante, M.A. (2014). Iridaceae presenti in Italia: 1-415. Sapienza, Università Editrice, Roma.
  • Hộ, P.-H. (1993). Câycỏ Việtnam. An Illustrated flora of Vietnam 3: 603-1176. Pham-hoang Ho, Montréal.
  • Iwatsuki, K., Boufford, D.E. & Ohba, H. (2016). Flora of Japan IVb: 1-335. Kodansha Ltd., Tokyo.
  • Kress, W.J. et al. (2003). Checklist of the Trees, Shrubs, Herbs, and Climbers of Myanmar: 1-590. National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
  • Maire, R. (1959 publ. 1960). Flore de l'Afrique du Nord 6: 1-397. Paul Lechevalier, Paris.
  • Marais, W. (1978). Flore des Mascareignes 177: 1-16. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
  • Ohwi, J. (1965). Flora of Japan (in English): 315-316. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Yutang, Z., Noltie, H.J. & Mathew, B. (2000). Flora of China 24: 297-313. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Duke, J.A. & Ayensu, E.S. (1985). Medicinal Plants of China. Vol. 2. Reference Publications, Algonac, Michigan.
  • Flora of China. Iris japonica. 24: 307.
  • Ohwi, J. (1965). Flora of Japan. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
  • Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (1991). Perennials, Vol. 1. Pan Books, London.
  • Stearn, W. & Rix, M. (1987). Redouté’s Fairest Flowers. Herbert Press/The British Museum, London.
  • World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Iris japonica. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Akhter, C. & al. (2013). A taxonomic appraisal of genus Iris L. (Iridaceae) in Kashmir himalaya, India. Iranian Journal of Botany 19: 119-126.
  • Bahali, D.D., Sanjappa, M. & Rath, S.P. (2004). Geographical distribution of Iridaceae in India. Indian Journal of Forestry 27: 251-256.
  • Colasante, M.A. (2014). Iridaceae presenti in Italia: 1-415. Sapienza, Università Editrice, Roma.
  • Hộ, P.-H. (1993). Câycỏ Việtnam. An Illustrated flora of Vietnam 3: 603-1176. Pham-hoang Ho, Montréal.
  • Kress, W.J. et al. (2003). Checklist of the Trees, Shrubs, Herbs, and Climbers of Myanmar: 1-590. National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
  • Maire, R. (1959 publ. 1960). Flore de l'Afrique du Nord 6: 1-397. Paul Lechevalier, Paris.
  • Marais, W. (1978). Flore des Mascareignes 177: 1-16. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
  • Yutang, Z., Noltie, H.J. & Mathew, B. (2000). Flora of China 24: 297-313. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.

Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

  • Diazgranados et al. (2021). Catalogue of plants of Colombia. Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia project. In prep.
  • Diazgranados, M., Allkin, B., Black N., Cámara-Leret, R., Canteiro C., Carretero J., Eastwood R., Hargreaves S., Hudson A., Milliken W., Nesbitt, M., Ondo, I., Patmore, K., Pironon, S., Turner, R., Ulian, T. (2020). World Checklist of Useful Plant Species. Produced by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity.
  • GBIF.org (2021). GBIF species matching tool. https://www.gbif.org/tools/species-lookup
  • Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) v.10 (2021); http://mpns.kew.org/
  • RBG, Kew (2021). Kew Economic Botany Collection. https://ecbot.science.kew.org/

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Kew Science Photographs

    Copyright applied to individual images

  • Kew Species Profiles

    Kew Species Profiles
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0