White Cemetery Iris

White Cemetery Iris
Fellow traveler on the gardening path, Russell Studebaker, shared some of his White Cemetery Iris corms with us this week. He said they have to be thinned periodically and we were lucky enough to have visited when they were still available.

TX A & M Extension has a couple of entries about these heirloom bulbs. ..." first used in North Africa as a decoration on gravesites, from there to Spain, and finally to the New World. It's a species cross that is unable to make seeds on its own, but spreads by being passed from hand to hand. You will often see it blooming where once a house stood, and it's able to survive unaided in pastures along the roadside, often half-buried in tall grasses and other wild flowers. The flash of blue-tinged white blooms give the plant's location away in the spring."

"Iris should be planted with the tops of the rhizomes almost out on the surface of the ground. They do not need coddling with extra water and fertilizer once established. This iris is an excellent choice for dry slopes or for using in a 'dry' or xeric landscape setting. Their spiky foliage makes a good contrast to low growing lantana, lavender, rosemary or other mounding plants.
An often-repeated gardeners' tale about White Cemetery iris is that they "take over" patches of purple iris until very quickly the purple blooms are gone for good. Even though this should not happen if iris don't set seed, there are plenty of people who swear they have seen individual plants which began with purple flowers, then with purple and white, until finally only white remained."

And, from Wikipedia, "a species of iris which was planted on graves in Muslim regions and grows in
many countries throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. It was later introduced to Spain, and then other European countries.
 It is a natural hybrid.  
I. albicans has been cultivated since ancient times and may be the oldest iris in cultivation. Collected by Lange in 1860, it has been in cultivation since at least 1400 BC. Originating from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, it appears in a wall painting of the Botanical Garden of Tuthmosis III in the Temple of Amun at Karnak in ancient Thebes dated around 1426 BC.
I. albicans is included in the Tasmanian Fire Service's list of low flammability plants, indicating that it is suitable for growing within a building protection zone."
Texas Heritage Bulbs offers them for sale. "White to off-white flowers stand on 16 to 20 inch stems above broad grey-green sword like leaves.  They freely multiply by spreading rhizomes and look great surrounding the trunks of oaks trees.  Three rhizomes per pack are shipped in the fall."

The Bulb Hunter, also in TX, posted a sweet story from one of his customers about the Cemetery Iris.

The Old City Cemetery in Sandersville GA says that the significance of the White Iris is that the name originally meant "the frailness of life." 


gourdphile said…
Russell Studebaker shares more than plants; he shares history and garden traditions. And thanks to you, MS for this interesting post!
Molly Day said…
You are so right! Russell Studebaker has so much knowledge about all things plants that you just want to be around him and listen.
Thanks for your comment.

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