Large wild iris (Dietes grandiflora) is also known as fairy iris, native iris or African iris. The Chinese names are 鳶尾科 or 愛麗絲It is a perennial plant that grow from creeping rhizomes (underground stem) or from seeds.

Large wild iris planted along a pathway
Large wild iris planted along a pathway

They have long, rigid, sword-like green leaves belonging to the Iridaceae family. This species is native to South Africa, common in horticulture and planted in gardens and along roadsides.

They flower in late spring and summer. The flowers are white marked with yellow and violet.

 

Flowers in full bloom
Flowers in full bloom

The petals and sepals are fused into a perianth with 6 petaloid segments arranged into 2 whorls. The outer whorls is commonly known as ‘falls’ while the inner whorl usually standing more upright, is known as ‘standards’.  Dark markings made up of tiny yellow hairs are present on the outer whorl.

6 petaloid segments of the perianth are separated into two whorls of 3. On the left is the ovary with the petaloid stigmas and stamens.
6 petaloid segments of the perianth are separated into two whorls of 3. On the left is the ovary with the petaloid stigmas and stamens.

There are 3 stamens. Each stamen is situated behind the lilac coloured ‘petaloid stigma’.

A stamen behind the lilac 'petaloid stigma'
A stamen behind the lilac ‘petaloid stigma’

The stigma is modified into lilac coloured petaloid structures. The ovary are below the perianth.  This arrangement is known as ‘inferior ovary’. The other floral parts are situated above the ovary, they are epigynous to the inferior ovary.

The perianth is situated above the ovary (epigynous to the inferior ovary). The ovary contains numerous ovules.
The perianth is situated above the ovary (epigynous to the inferior ovary). The ovary contains numerous ovules.

The ovary has 3 carpels (chambers) with ovules.

Under the microscope: Trilocular (3 chambered) ovary and ovules with axile placentation (attached to the middle axle)
Under the microscope: Trilocular (3 chambered) ovary and ovules with axile placentation (attached to the middle axle)

The flowers are insect pollinated. After pollination, fertilization occurs. The male cells of the pollen grains fuse with the female egg cells in the ovules. Each fertilized egg develops into a baby plant inside the developing ovule. The ovules become seeds and the ovary become a capsule like fruit.

 

Two ovaries are developing into two fruit
Two ovaries are developing into two fruit
P1010631 (1280x557)
The ovary is cut open to show the developing seeds. The seeds have not ripen yet. The section on the left is a transverse section; on the right is a longitudinal section.

 

Dark brown seeds are dispersed after they matured.

African Iris grow fast and can commonly get overcrowded. In some places, it is regarded to an endemic plant or a pest.

 

Chinese paintings of flowers that are related to or look like iris

Unknown artist of a few century ago, ink and Chinese watercolour on silk
Unknown artist of a few century ago, Iris, ink and Chinese watercolour on silk
Yùn Nántián (惲南田) (1633-1690), ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Yùn Nántián (惲南田) (1633-1690), Iris, ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Yùn Nántián (惲南田) (1633-1690), ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Yùn Nántián (惲南田) (1633-1690), Iris, ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Jīn Nóng (金農) (1687- 1763), , ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Jīn Nóng (金農) (1687- 1763), Iris, ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Qi Baishi 齊白石 (1864 – 1957), ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Qi Baishi 齊白石 (1864 – 1957), Iris, ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Yu Jin-lan (余金蘭)(active around 1960) , ink and Chinese watercolour on paper
Yu Jin-lan (余金蘭)(active around 1960), Iris and Butterfly  湖邊幽趣, ink and Chinese watercolour on paper

 

Impressionist paintings of the iris

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Irises Saint-Remy, 1889, oil on canvas, 71 x 93 cm, J. Paul Getty Museum Malibu
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Irises Saint-Remy, 1889, oil on canvas, 71 x 93 cm, J. Paul Getty Museum Malibu
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), circa 1913 - 1922, oil on canvas, 106 x 155 cm), Collection of the Musee Marmottan, Paris
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), circa 1913 – 1922, Iris,  oil on canvas, 106 x 155 cm), Collection of the Musee Marmottan, Paris
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), circa 1913 - 1922, oil on canvas, 200.7 x 100.3 cm)
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), Iris, circa 1913 – 1922, oil on canvas, 200.7 x 100.3 cm)

 

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), circa 1915 - 1922, oil on canvas, 106 x 155 cm), Collection of Galerie Beyeler, Basel
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), Iris, circa 1915 – 1922, oil on canvas, 106 x 155 cm, Collection of Galerie Beyeler, Basel

Bibliography :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietes_grandiflora

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iris_(plant)#/media/File:Parts_of_an_iris_flower.jpg

https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%B8%A2%E5%B0%BE%E5%B1%9E (鳶尾屬)

户辅圣 (2003) 中国画历代名家技法图典 花鳥编(上) 上海華书画出版社

Monet’s Years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism (1978) The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Abrama  ISBN 0-8109-2183-9

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