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The term "Japanese iris" encompasses three species of Irises cultivated in gardens or growing wild in Japan: hanashōbu (Iris ensata), kakitsubata (Iris laevigata) and ayame (Iris sanguinea). Of these three species, I. ensata is the one most commonly referred to as "Japanese iris" outside Japan.

The bluish purple color of the flowers of the Japanese garden iris is an example of the copigmentation phenomenon.[1]

Hanashōbu at Meigetsu-in
Iris ensata (including Iris kaempferi


The Hanashōbu (ハナショウブ, 花菖蒲?, Iris ensata var. ensata, syn. I. ensata var. hortensis I. kaempferi) grows in the wet land and is the most extensively cultivated variety in Japanese gardens. According to the place where it was cultivated, it is classified into the Edo (Tokyo), Higo (Kumamoto Prefecture), Ise (Mie Prefecture), American (U.S.A.) and other series. It is extensively grown in gardens throughout the temperate zones. Several cultivars have been selected, of which 'Rose Queen'[2] and 'Variegata'[3] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.


The Kakitsubata (link to article in Japanese) (カキツバタ, 杜若?, Iris laevigata) grows in the semi-wet land and is less popular, but is also cultivated extensively.

It is a prefectural flower of Aichi Prefecture due to the famous tanka poem which is said to have been written in this area during the Heian period, as it appears in The Tales of Ise by Ariwara no Narihira (note that the beginning syllables are "ka-ki-tsu-ha (ba)-ta"):

Original text Pronunciation Meaning







Kitsutsu narenishi

Tsuma shi areba,

Harubaru kinuru

Tabi o shizo omou

I have come so far away on this trip this time and think of my wife that I left in Kyoto

Kakitsubata at Ōta Shrine, Kyoto, is a National Natural Treasure. It was already recorded in a tanka by Fujiwara Toshinari also in the Heian period:

Original text Pronunciation Meaning



Kamiyama ya ōta no sawa no kakitsubata

Fukaki tanomi wa iro ni miyu ramu

Like the kakitsubata at Ōta Wetland, a God-sent heaven, my trust in you can be seen in the color of their flowers.


The Ayame (アヤメ, 菖蒲, 文目?, Iris sanguinea) is the iris typically growing wild on the dry land in Japan.


Classification Color of flower Leaf Feature of flower Location Flowering time
Hanashōbu Red purple, purple, etc. Distinct artery Shows no net Wet land Early June - late June
Kakitsubata Blue, purple, white, etc. Small artery Shows no net In water or wet land mid-May - late May
Ayame Purple, rarely white Main artery not clear Shows net Dry land Early May - Mid-June

Note: Sweet flag, called Shōbu (ショウブ, 菖蒲) in Japanese, is a plant belonging to the family Acoraceae, genus Acorus, known for its fragrant roots, rather than its flowers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anthocyanin-flavone copigmentation in bluish purple flowers of Japanese garden iris (Iris ensata Thunb.) T. Yabuya, M. Nakamura, T. Iwashina, M. Yamaguchi and T. Takehara, EUPHYTICA, Volume 98, Number 3, 163-167, doi:10.1023/A:1003152813333
  2. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Iris ensata 'Rose Queen'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  3. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Iris ensata 'Variegata'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_iris — Please support Wikipedia.
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147 news items

Press Herald

Press Herald
Sun, 24 Apr 2016 01:02:31 -0700

“Lion King” Japanese iris: One of the most beautiful. Commonly get huge flowers, 7 to 8 inches across. • “Lewisia” or bitterroot: Native to the west, with little, star-shaped flowers and foliage that looks like a succulent. Low to the ground. Blooms ...


Thu, 14 Apr 2016 09:41:15 -0700

The Japanese iris thrives in well-drained, yet moist, acidic soils and blooms. VIEW SLIDESHOW 1 of 6. The Japanese iris thrives in well-drained, yet moist, acidic soils and blooms in June and July, after most other iris are finished. Kristin Shoemaker ...

Visalia Times-Delta

Visalia Times-Delta
Fri, 15 Apr 2016 09:07:30 -0700

Instead of Yellow Water Iris, choose a Japanese Iris (Iris ensata and cultivars.) Each year the state of California spends more than $82 million dollars to fight and control invasive plants. Homeowners can contribute to the control effort and help to ...

SouthCoastToday.com (blog)

SouthCoastToday.com (blog)
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 00:16:05 -0700

One of my favorite water garden plants isn't a water lily or even a plant that's sold at most water gardening stores. But it thrives in the water and even survives the New England winter submerged in my pond. It's Japanese iris (Iris ensata) — a tall ...

Weekly Times Now

Weekly Times Now
Tue, 08 Mar 2016 05:08:28 -0800

The trick is to wait until Japanese iris seed pods just begin to split a little before cutting them free. Prise them open to expose the dark, greenish seeds within. They should still be moist and even a little sticky. Sow immediately into punnets or ...

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Wed, 09 Mar 2016 14:52:30 -0800

Spring bulbs, Japanese iris, daffodils, hebe, escallonia and prostrate cypress accent the area. Paper bark birch trees add height to the landscape design. The picture is finished with rhododendrons and camellias, which frame the front porch while ...


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Thu, 31 Mar 2016 21:16:09 -0700

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