Dalmatian Iris

June 1, 2024

Or perhaps that should be the Illyrian Iris.

Regardless of whether one is considering the subspecies pictured within this journal article (Iris pallida subsp. illyrica) or the better-known Dalmatian Iris (Iris pallida subsp. pallida), the common names of these Balkan natives establish a wonderful connection to the ancient history of this region.

The Illyrian kingdom covered a significant portion of the Balkan Peninsula well before Roman rule and the much later arrival of Slavic peoples to this part of the world. Whilst Illyria has long since vanished from modern cartography, the name of one group of Illyrian tribes, the Delmatae, lives on informally in reference to a long, narrow stretch of land adjoining Croatia’s coastline.

The impressive mountain chain of the Dinaric Alps exerts a powerful influence over Dalmatia’s landscape character and climate. As Olivier Filippi notes within his fine book, ‘Bringing the Mediterranean into your Garden’, the mountains draw in intense rains that contribute towards stripping topsoil from the underlying limestone (forming karst in many places).

The images presented here were taken by the currently-roving Logan, who has recently explored the remarkable limestone landscapes of Croatia’s mountains – including a range of habitats (rocky meadows and limestone outcrops) favoured by I. pallida subsp. illyrica.

Despite all the breeding that goes into making endless permutations of bearded iris varieties (with names like racehorses), Iris pallida is one of the finest bearded irises that one can plant. We have used Iris pallida subsp. pallida in a number of projects (in various parts of New Zealand), due to the fact that it tends to form stronger stems than most tall bearded iris varieties (an important consideration in mild climates).

More information on the genus Iris has recently been added to the section on geophytes within our plant profiles.

The habitat photos included within this journal article are provided by Logan Drummond. As with all other images on the O2 Landscapes website, ownership resides with the photographer, and these images may not be used or reproduced without the consent of both Logan and O2 Landscapes.