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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 of 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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98 news items

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 ...


Sun, 24 May 2015 08:10:12 -0700

Touring the iris capital of the world: Six hundred visiting members of the American Iris Society toured six gardens in the Willamette Valley during its once-a-decade visit here, which coincides with the group's annual convention, which is May 18-23 ...

Camas Washougal Post Record

Camas Washougal Post Record
Tue, 26 May 2015 11:16:34 -0700

The farm, owned by Chad Harris and Dale Grams, is the site of a National Display Garden of Japanese iris. It is also one of seven in the United States that produce the rare Aspen water iris. Located six miles east of Washougal, a dazzling array of ...


Sun, 04 Oct 2015 01:34:14 -0700

Master Gardeners. Plant arithmetic: Divide + multiply. Master Gardener Pierre Hart divides a 5-year-old clump of Japanese iris and increases his collection. Photo provided. By PIERRE HART Extension Master Gardener ...
San Jose Mercury News
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 15:25:55 -0700

Invasive ornamental plants do millions of dollars worth of damage to the environment each year. PlantRight, a group that is part of the nonprofit Sustainable Conservation organization, is working with nurseries and growers to voluntarily halt the ...

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 11:49:20 -0700

The pond, hemmed by Japanese iris that whisper in a late afternoon's breeze, is no penned-in puddle, but rather a rippled expanse, punctuated by water lily and box turtle. Rising from masses of sumac on the pond's northeast rim — and guaranteed not to ...

Florida Today

Florida Today
Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:03:41 -0700

grow native iris or Louisiana iris and their hybrids (German or Japanese iris usually do not grow well here), rain lily (Zephyranthes) and spider lily (Hymenocallis spp.). •Herbs for the November garden include: chives, garlic chives, fennel, rosemary ...
Eureka Times Standard
Thu, 10 Sep 2015 15:41:15 -0700

A pair of Japanese maple trees frames the house with help from Japanese iris, azaleas and lilies. Yellow day lilies, pink hydrangeas, purple lavender and Santa Barbara daisies surround the lawn. The planter near the sidewalk contains boulders for ...

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