Iris fulva painted by John Audubon

The Louisiana Irises belong to a group of iris species native to the American South.

The first species within this grouping to be officially described was Iris hexagona, recorded by Walter in 1788.  Hence the group is today known as the Series hexagonea.

 Iris hexagona collected by Sean Zera in Dixie County, FloridaIris hexagona collected in Dixie County, Florida
Audubon, the great painter of American birds, included the "Louisiana Irises" in the background of one of his bird paintings.

 In addition to the originally described I. hexagona, other species include I. fulva (Ker-Gawler, 1812) and I. brevicaulis (Rafinesque, 1817). I. fulva brought the color red into the genetics of this group; I. brevicaulis contributed cold-hardyness.

orange form of Iris fulva

Iris giganticaerulea
It was not until 1929 that the tireless John R. Small described the towering blue coastal marsh iris known as I. giganticaerulea.

white form of Iris giganticaeruleaStill later, in 1966, Randolph described a new species called I. nelsonii--which included what had earlier been known as the "Abbeville reds."

a not quite fully opened blossom of I. nelsonA distinctive but not quite fully opened blossom of I. nelsonii. This large, showy blossom on a vigourous plant is a good illustration of why I. nelsonii was known as 'Super Fulvas'.

Today taxonomists still assess (if not debate) the various species within the Louisiana irises.

From these species a myriad of hybrids--both naturally occurring and by the hand of humans--have been recorded.












I. hexagona   image from the Signa Species Database and Sean Zera.      I. nelsonii  image from  Rod Barton.