Species Iris Group of North America

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Iris anguifuga

Botanical Name: Iris anguifuga (added by D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)

Botanical Synonyms:



Ophioiris (D. Kramb, 14-SEP-04)

Common Names:

Snake bane iris (D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)

Chromosome Count:


General Description:

Resembles a skinny spuria iris, evergreen during winter, but dormant during summer and starts growing again in mid-autumn. (D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)

12-20" tall with flowers in violet or blue, spotted purple. (D. Kramb, 14-SEP-04)

Distinguishing Features:

This species has a fascinating root structure. When dug after blooming it resembles a 0.75" diameter woody rhizome. When dug as it begins fall growth the underground structure resembles a typical bulb with a withered tail, last year's rhizome. It is one of the few plants with seasonal bulbs and seasonal rhizomes. It is also the only Iris species with a single bract beneath the terminal flower. (D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)

Preferred Habitat:

Hillsides and grasslands (D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)


At least to Zone 5. (D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)

Native Range:

China (D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)

Hubei, China (D. Kramb, 14-SEP-04)

Status in the Wild:


Commercial Availability:


Sources Cited:

All information mentioned on this page on 05-DEC-03 has been obtained from a report by Dr. James Waddick found on-line at http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/pbs/2003-May/002977.html (D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)

Info entered on 14-SEP-04 comes from the SIGNA Checklist of Iris Species. (D. Kramb, 14-SEP-04)

Additional Comments:

The species name "anguifuga" means "snake chaser". It is derived from Chinese folklore that this plant keeps snakes out of the garden. By growing all winter it keeps snakes out of the garden. But in spring after it blooms, it weakens and goes dormant it can no longer keep snakes away. By fall the iris regains its strength and chases the snakes away again. (D. Kramb, 05-DEC-03)

Mathew revision includes it in Series Tenuifoliae. Zhao prefers Section Ophioiris. (D. Kramb, 14-SEP-04)

Where to buy it:

Iris City Gardens

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