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Family Iridaceae

Synonyms: Geosiridaceae APNI*

Description: Perennial herbs, rarely annuals or small shrubs; rootstock a corm, bulb or rhizome.

Leaves usually distichous, basal or cauline, parallel-veined with closed basal sheaths, equitant, flat, variously winged or terete, sometimes dorsiventral and channelled.

Inflorescence terminal, usually scapose, either spicate with flowers solitary in a spathe of short bracts or cymose with spathes of 1 or 2 large outer bracts. Flowers actinomorphic or zygomorphic, 3-merous, bisexual. Perianth in 2 whorls; tepals 6, similar or dissimilar, free, or fused below in a tube. Nectaries usually present at base of tepals. Stamens mostly 3, inserted at base of the perianth or in the perianth tube opposite outer tepals; anthers 2-locular, basifixed to dorsifixed, usually extrorse, dehiscing by longitudinal slits. Ovary inferior, mostly 3-locular; ovules few–many, placentation axile; style usually 3-branched, sometimes further divided with a 3-lobed terminal stigma.

Fruit a capsule, opening loculicidally from apex, 3-valved; seeds sometimes arillate.

Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 90 genera, c. 1500 species, almost cosmopolitan, with centres of diversity in southern Africa, South America & Mediterranean region. Australia: 29 genera, 80 species, all States.

External links:
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Family: Iridaceae, Order: Asparagales)

Many exotic Iridaceae are grown widely in gardens and for cut flowers. Some including species of Homeria, Romulea and Watsonia, have become weeds.

Text by T. A. James & E. A. Brown
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key

 Key to the genera 
1Inflorescence a solitary flower2
Inflorescence of 2–many flowers3
2Inner perianth lobes less than one-third length of outer perianth lobesHerbertia
Perianth lobes equal
                       Back to 1
3Inflorescence cymose; each set of 2 spathe bracts enclosing 2–many usually pedicellate flowers, flowers withering and falling quickly4
Inflorescence spicate; each set of 2 spathe bracts enclosing 1 sessile flower, flower not withering and falling quickly
                       Back to 1
4Style with petaloid branches, each covering a stamen, with 2 erect crests exceeding the flap-shaped stigma (Iris-shaped flowers)5
Style without prominently crested petaloid branches; stamens exposed
                       Back to 3
5Plant evergreen with rhizomes; leaves several, erect; stamens freeIris
Plant deciduous, with corms; leaf usually solitary, lax; stamens fused
                       Back to 4
6Leaves folded longitudinally, or dorsiventral and channelled; individual flowers not subtended by bracteoles, only spathe bracts present7
Leaves equitant; individual flowers subtended by bracteoles, spathe bracts present
                       Back to 4
7Leaves folded longitudinally; inner perianth lobes less than one-third length of outer lobes; rootstock a bulbHerbertia
Leaves dorsiventral, channelled; perianth lobes more or less equal; rootstock a corm
                       Back to 6
8Inner and outer perianth lobes very unequal, the inner lobes vestigialPatersonia
Inner and outer perianth lobes unequal or subequal
                       Back to 6
9Flower zygomorphic; 2 stamens fertile, the third a staminodeDiplarrena
Flower actinomorphic; all 3 stamens fertile
                       Back to 8
10Flowers white; outer perianth lobes shorter and narrower than inner lobesLibertia
Flowers blue, violet or creamy yellow often purple striped; perianth lobes equal in length
                       Back to 9
11Base of fan of leaves light green; style 3-branchedSisyrinchium
Base of leaves reddish purple; style unbranched or occasionally with 3 very short lobes
                       Back to 10
12Style branches deeply 2-fid; stigmas 6 or more13
Style branches entire; stigmas 3
                       Back to 3
13Leaves coarsely fibrous in texture; flowers spreading in a loosely distichous vertical spikeWatsonia
Leaves soft-textured; flowers erect in a secund horizontal spike
                       Back to 12
14Leaves pubescent, longitudinally folded, abruptly narrowed at baseBabiana
Leaves glabrous to very finely pubescent, never longitudinally folded or abruptly narrowed at base
                       Back to 12
15Flowers pendent on pendent filiform branches of a branched spikeDierama
Flowers erect to horizontal; inflorescence unbranched or with erect branches
                       Back to 14
16Perianth tube straight; flowers more or less erect17
Perianth tube curved; flowers spreading, often at right angles to axis
                       Back to 15
17Perianth tube narrowly cylindrical, exserted from spathesIxia
Perianth tube funnel-shaped, not or hardly exserted from spathes
                       Back to 16
18Spathes scarious, brown-streaked, ragged or lacerateSparaxis
Spathes membranous, at least partially green, not brown-streaked, entire or emarginate
                       Back to 17
19Axis of spike strongly flexuous; plant stoloniferousCrocosmia
Axis of spike never flexuous; stolons absent
                       Back to 16
20Perianth tube swollen on 1 side near base, abruptly dilated c. 10 mm above ovaryChasmanthe
Perianth tube gradually widened, never swollen on 1 side near base
                       Back to 19
21Spathe bracts entire, acute, herbaceousGladiolus
Spathe bracts toothed or lacerate, scarious
                       Back to 20

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