P80505KThere really is a bearded iris that happens to be named ‘San Francisco’. It is related to ‘Los Angeles’, but not ‘San Jose’. (I really want to find a copy of ‘San Jose’ for my own garden!) Both ‘San Francisco’ and ‘Los Angeles’ are white with a slight blue highlight, and an even slighter reddish edge that is easy to miss. I can not remember which one of the two is whiter than the other, but the whiter one may lack the reddish edge altogether.

The San Francisco iris I remember is something completely different. It is a native west coast iris, Iris douglasiana (or douglasii or any other variation of ‘douglas‘ that any particular botanist happen to prefer) that happens to be endemic to the coastal region of San Mateo County south of San Francisco, and was probably endemic to San Francisco County as well. It would be difficult to identify the entire range, because San Francisco iris is merely a variety, rather than a species. The species has a much larger range. Some might say that the same species in Sonoma or Monterey Counties is also San Francisco iris, just because it happens to bloom with a similar color range.

Well, then there is the issue of the color range. Most varieties of other specie are a particular color. Those that have a range of color at least exhibit a distinct color range that is somehow special and different from everything else. The San Francisco iris does not. It is always blue, but might be any shade or hue between very pale blue and rather dark new denim blue. Not only is that a broad range of color, but it is not very distinctive from the same species hundreds of miles away.

So why do we know it as ‘San Francisco iris’? I really do not know. Perhaps it is just something for us to brag about.

Over the years, west coast iris has been bred to bloom with larger flowers with more of a color range. I am sorry that I did not get more pictures while they were blooming. Besides the more common shades and hues of simple blue, they can bloom in various shades and hues of purple, violet, yellow, gold and white. They are still as undemanding as their ancestors are, and once established, do not need much attention at all.P80505K+

10 thoughts on “San Francisco iris

  1. I really like the California native iris. I was delighted when I found the your marvelling in their native habitat. I have seem a large plants of iris missouriensis growing along the roadside Idaho

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    1. It is amazing how diverse the iris are in North America. There seems to be as many different specie as there are states! Missouri, Alaska, Oregon, Louisiana, and on and on! I like the natives because they are familiar, but it is difficult to not also like the others that are more colorful.

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    1. Yes, but the real natives that have not been bred should really stay in the wild, or at most be planted into an uncultivated part of the garden. When I was a kid, I would go out and pick a whole bunch on the hills above Montara, but they would all wilt by the time I got them into water. I would go out and do the same thing the following year. I did it for a few years before I finally gave up. I happened to take some rhizomes off the side of a road that was in the process of getting widened, and planted them just outside of my Pa’s garden, where they do very well. They are the color of faded denim.

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    1. There are actually a few native iris, and two just in this area alone. The second one is not as variable, but has taller stems with thin white flowers. It grew up on the ridge above my home. Iris are more colorful in other regions.


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