(Iris astrachanica, Iris eulefeldii, Iris glaucescens)
Despite having a very wide geographical range this is still a very little-known species in cultivation. It is a dwarf bearded species, reaching from 20cm to about 40cm tall, which grows from a slightly insubstantial-looking rhizome, a little like an Oncocylus species.
It has sickle-like blue-green leaves below stems usually bearing a pair of flowers each, these are subtended by 3-4 dry, papery bracts. Indeed the name scariosa alludes to these “shrivelled” bracts.
The flowers are of a good size and are very attractive, they are usually in shades of blue-violet or purple sometimes with a reddish cast and they have yellow or white beards. Rarely white or yellow flowered plants are reported. The flowers are held on a short tube. The variability has caused more than one form to be named however it appears to be simply a widespread and variable plant. It is readily grown as for many other dwarf bearded Iris species and though it shows extreme tolerance to both drought and salt in the wild, neither are needed in cultivation! Hardiness seems not to be a problem as this has been tested to -20°C in Russia (that is -40°F) but I would ensure good drainage at all times
This grows on dry steppes and in saline environments from European Russia through Kazakhstan, the Altai Mountains and Mongolia reaching northwestern China in Xinjiang province. In the wild it grows at 1,500m–2,400m altitude. Our original stock was from a nursery in Tacheng in northern Xinjiang.
It was first described by Johann Heinrich Friedrich Link in 1820 and introduced to our lists in August 2017.