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The Iris Family

written by Admin
5 · 14 · 20

Image: Joan Keyter

Rodney Moffett (Research associate, Dept. of Plant Sciences, UFS) contributing with a series of articles regarding the more interesting plants in the Clarens Village Conservancy.


Members of the Iridaceae are a group characterized by long strap-like leaves and flower parts in 3’s or 6’s, and having only 3 stamens. The most well-known are the bearded irises found in many gardens. These are, however, not indigenous, having originally come from the northern hemisphere. 

Indigenous members of this family occurring in and around the Conservancy are genera such as Moraea, Gladiolus, Watsonia, Hesperantha, Schizostylis, Dierama, Crocosmia, Tritonia and Aristea. 


(named after the wife of the Swedish botanist, Linnaeus).
Closest to the garden Iris, two Moraea’s occur here, viz: Moraea tripetala, dwarf and mauve and M. alticola, found in higher parts.

Moraea alticola

Image by Wim Wybenga


(Latin name for a sword, referring to the leaf blades).
Four species locally, viz: Gladiolus dalenii, G.crassifolium, G. papilio and G. saundersii  (the latter rare, one plant seen so far).

Gladiolus dalenii.

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

Gladiolus crassifolius  

Image: Wim Wybenga

Gladiolus papilio

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

Gladiolus saundersii 

Image: Rod Moffett

Watsonia lepida 

(after William Watson, 18th century English scientist).
Only one species here, Watsonia lepida. Often in large populations.

Watsonia lepida  

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

Schizostylis coccinea

(Schizo, Gk for split; stylis, Latin, referring to style). 
One species here. Schizostylis coccinea. River lily. Found in wet places.

Schizostylis coccinea 

Image: Wim Wybenga


(Hesperos, Gk for evening; anthos Latin for flower).
Two species in the CVC., viz: Hesperantha coccinea (formerly included in Schizostylis) found In wet places and H. schelpeana. Latter rare.

Hesperantha coccinea 

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

 Hesperantha schelpeana 

Image: Rod Moffett


(Diorama, Gk for funnel, referring to shape of flower).
One species locally. Dierama robustum. Common name, Hairbells.

Dierama robustum  

Image: Anneke Kritzinger


(Krokos, Gk for saffron; osme, Gk for smell).
One species in the CVC, Crocosmia paniculata. Gardeners also know it as Montbretia.

Crocosmia paniculata  

Image: SANBI


(Triton, Latin for weathercock, referring to the stamens).
One species in the CVC. Tritonia lineata.

Tritonia lineata 

Image: Wim Wybenga


(Arista, Latin for point, referring to the sharp pointed leaves).
One species in the CVC, Aristea woodii. Blue flowers rare in this family.

Aristea woodii  

Image: Wim Wybenga


Scilla natalensis

Merwilla plumbea (Scilla natalensis) is a graceful perennial bulb, and with its tall plumes of blue flowers, the showiest of the South African scillas. It is deciduous, growing during summer and dormant in the winter. It can grow up to 1 m tall, often in large...

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What in the world?

What in the world?

Hyobanche rubra Known in English as Broomrape, in Afrikaans as "Aardroos" and in Sesotho as "Moshoafeela", this unusual plant belongs to the snapdragon family. It has an underground stem and is a parasite, living off the roots of another plant. The portion above...

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How Yellow!

How Yellow!

This delightful bulb (actually a corm), known as Yellow Tritonia, with its very striking yellow flowers belongs to the Iris family and is fairly common in the Nature Reserve. It is normally solitary and is currently in flower on the Scilla walk. It is also called,...

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A pink walk indeed

Hesperantha schelpeana. One of the early Spring jewels in the CVC is this stunning Hesperantha schelpeana.   Currently in flower along the Mallen Walk, it, together with Hesperantha baurii are two plants endemic (only found here) to the Drakensberg and surrounds....

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