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Iris Illyrica (German Iris)

The Illyrian iris (Iris illyrica) is a perennial plant from the iris family (Iridaceae). According to the IOPII (International Organization for Plant Information) the status of this plant is still unresolved; it is often treated as a subspecies of the Dalmatian Iris (I. pallida) which is scarlely known in its wild form, but listed as one of the important ingredients of the tall bearded irises.

Its flowering period is May and June. Its best planting position is in full sun. The soil requirements are dry or average moist, fertile well drained soil. It is suitable in border and rock gardens. This plant produces seeds rarely. It produces usually ten seeds that ripen out in autumn.

Its native range consists of much of the ancient region Illyria, for which it is named, and includes modern Dalmatia, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and parts of Serbia and Macedonia, where it can be found growing wild.

The Illyrians (and later the Romans) considered Iris illyrica to have medicinal properties. These included the healing of boils and relief of headaches. The plant was also believed able to induce abortion. Parts were used in the ancient world as an anti-perspirant and for the manufacture of perfumes.

Homotypic Synonyms:
  • Iris × germanica subsp. illyrica (Tomm. ex Vis.) Nyman, Consp. Fl. Eur.: 700 (1882).
  • Iris pallida subsp. illyrica (Tomm. ex Vis.) K.Richt., Pl. Eur. 1: 255 (1890). Synonym: Iris illyrica Tomm. ex Vis., Fl. Dalmat., Suppl. 2: 53 (1877).
  • Iris cengialti var. illyrica (Tomm. ex Vis.) Dykes, Gen. Iris: 168 (1913).
  • Iris × florentina var. illyrica (Tomm. ex Vis.) Fiori, Nuov. Fl. Italia 1: 299 (1923).

The name Iris Illyrica Tomm. ex Vis., Fl. Dalmat., Suppl. 2: 53 (1877) is not accepted by: Poldini, L., Oriolo, G. & Vidali, M.. (2001). Vascular Flora of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. An Annotated Catalogue and Synonimic Index. Studia Geobotanica 21: 3-227. Place of publication cited as Veg. Isola Veglia, 63 (1875) as nom. nud. Flora Europaea gives same reference as validly published. Unable to find. [as Iris cengialti subsp. illyrica].

Iris illyrica
Iris Illyrica. © 2006 Dr. Amadej Trnkoczy.

Ilirska perunika (Iris illyrica Tommasini)

Iris is a very grateful garden plant, especially suitable for rock gardens. Also Iris Illyrica is a plant that grows in rocks, Karst stones, fences made of stones and very stony meadows. It grows in dry and sunny places, it is not odd therefore that it prospers best on Karst edges, sheltered from the north wind (burja). Rootstocks find their way through rocks almost on the surface and blue-green leaves of special shape grow out of them, pedicels have from two to five blue –violet flowers, shaped in a characteristic way that all irises have: two circles of three coloured leaves and three stamina; with inferior ovary. Iris illyrica was already described by a well known botanist Muzio de Tommasini who was a mayor of Tržič in 19th century. He worked in Slovenia and on eastern Adriatic coast all the way to Boka Kotorska. He named many plants as "Illirian", because they grow on the area of ex-Roman province Illyricum.   Perunike so pri nas bolj znane s cvetličarsko popačenko »iris« ali celo »iriske« in so hvaležne vrtne rastline, še posebej primerne za skalnjake. Tudi ilirska perunika je rastlina skalovja, kraških »grobelj« (naloženega kamenja), suhozidov in zelo kamnitih travnikov. Prijajo ji suha in sončna rastišča, zato ni čudno, če najbolje uspeva prav na kraških robovih, v zavetrju pred burjo. Mesnate korenike se plazijo med skalovjem skoraj na površini, iz njih poganjajo sinjezeleni, na poseben način sploščeni listi, na pecljih je od dva do pet modrovijoličastih cvetov, ki so značilno oblikovani na način, kot ga imajo vse perunike: dva kroga po tri obarvane liste ter tri prašnike; plodnica je podrasla. Ilirsko peruniko je opisal znani tržaški botanik Muzio de Tommasini, ki je bil v 19. stoletju tudi tržaški župan. Deloval je na našem ozemlju in na vzhodno jadranski obali vse do Boke Kotorske. Veliko rastlin je poimenoval »ilirske«, saj uspevajo na ozemlju nekdanje rimske province Ilirik (Illyricum).

Native Range:

Northern Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia (D. Kramb, 09-NOV-03)


In autumn it’s not necessary to fertilize bulbous plants; in any case it’s good to enrich the soil of the newly planted bulbs with organic fertilizer..

  • Continental: The Iris illyrica needs direct sunlight, even for many hours a day. These plants can stand the cold, therefore they can be placed in the garden during the whole year; they don’t need protection against the cold..
  • Alpine: These plants prefer very sunny locations, where they are exposed to sunrays for most of the day. These plants are grown in the garden, in full ground, because they can stand the cold.
  • Mediterranean: This plant needs to be exposed to direct solar rays. The Iris illyrica is grown in the garden, because it can stand the cold.
  • Continental: We suggest watering quite frequently, every 0-1 weeks. In this manner it will be kept fairly moist, without being soaked with water. Usually 2-3 glasses of water are used.

  • Alpine: Watering should be done pretty frequently and regularly, but without exceeding: let’s remember to we the soil thoroughly and let it dry before giving it more water. Let’s irrigate every 1-2 weeks using 1-2 glasses of water.
  • Mediterranean: Watering in this period of the year must be very frequent, even every -0-0 weeks, so that the soil is always slightly damp. For average dimension plants we suggest using about 3-4 glasses of water.


Before the cold months arrive, a wide range anticryptogamic treatment is advised; the plants which have been struck by black spot disease or other fungal pathologies must be cured in a specific manner, remembering to gather and destroy the leaves affected by diseases.

Dalmatian or Sweet Iris

Iris pallida (Dalmatian Iris or Sweet Iris) is native to the Illyrian coast (former Yugoslavia) but widely naturalised elsewhere. It is a member of the subgenus iris, meaning that it is a bearded iris, and grows from a rhizome. Four varieties (regularly described as separate species) are recognised with one possible new alpine species having white flowers.

It is cultivated for extraction of essential oils from its rhizome (orris root). This iris prefers rocky places in the mediterranean and submediterranean zone and reaches sometimes montane regions at its southern range in Montenegro. It grows to a stem height of 50 to 80 centimeters. The leaves are bluish-green in color, and sword-shaped, 40 to 50 centimeters in length, and 2.5 to 3 centimeters in width. The inflorescence, produced in May/June, is fan-shaped and contains two or three flowers which are usually pale purplish to whitish.


Three subspecies of Iris pallida s.l. are recognised by some authors as species: Iris pallida ssp. cengialti (with deep purplish flowers) from Slovenia and adjacent Italy, Iris pallida ssp.illyrica from the North Dalmatian coast, Iris pallida ssp. pseudopallida from the South Dalmatian coast. Another subspecies is Iris pallida ssp. musulmanica. The newly-described Orjen Iris (I. orjenii) has white flowers.The varíety with deep purplish flowers from Northern Italy and the Slovenian alps is called Iris cengialtiIris germanica of central Europe, "the most common purple Fleur de Luce" of Ray, is the large common blue iris of gardens, the bearded iris or fleur de luce and probably the Illyrian iris of the ancients.


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Created: Saturday, July 17, 2010; Last updated: Monday, October 15, 2012
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