Iris, with its showy and colorful flowers, is one of the most popular ornamental plants worldwide, and is commonly grown in gardens and used as a cut flower. As the largest genus in the family Iridaceae, Iris comprises about 280 species (Goldblatt and Manning, 2008). There are ≈70,000 known Iris cultivars, and more than 1000 new cultivars are produced by selection and hybridization every year (Hu and Xiao, 2012). Few of those cultivars bloom in early spring (late March to mid-April in the eastern China). According to the taxonomic system of Mathew (1981), Iris japonica Thunb. belongs to the subgenus Limniris section Lophiris Tausch, also known as crested irises or evansia irises. I. japonica is native to southern China and Japan where it blooms in early spring (Zhao et al., 2000). It is given the common name Butterfly Iris because the flower resembles a dancing butterfly. It is a traditional plant that has been cultivated in Chinese gardens since the Song Dynasty and is alluded to in many old poems (Hu and Xiao, 2012). It is hardy to between U.S. Department of Agriculture Zones 7 to 10 and can tolerate weak light conditions as well as wet and hot environments.
Selecting novel individuals from natural populations is an important way to acquire new iris cultivars. A series of early-spring-flowering ornamental Iris cultivars were selected from plants of I. japonica in 2017. These cultivars have attractive evergreen leaves and produce abundant colorful flowers from late March to mid-April in Shanghai City, eastern China.
Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 2008 The iris family: Natural history and classification. Timber Press, London, England
Hu, Y.H. & Xiao, Y.E. 2012 The wetland irises: Appreciation, cultivation and application. Science Press, Beijing
Mathew, B. 1981 The iris. B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, England
Zhao, Y.T., Noltie, H. & Mathew, B. 2000 Iridaceae, p. 297–313. In: Z.Y. Wu and P.H. Raven (eds.). Flora of China, vol. 24. Science Press, Beijing; Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, MO