Our Native Irises: Pacific Coast Irises

Iris tenax ssp. tenax: Toughleaf Iris

The toughleaf iris occurs from western Oregon north into western Washington.

Map of the range of tenax ssp. tenax in Oregon.
Range map of Iris tenax ssp. tenax in Oregon. Courtesy of the USDA PLANTS Database.

Map of the range of Iris tenax ssp. tenax in Washington.
Range map of Iris tenax ssp. tenax in Washington. Courtesy of the USDA PLANTS Database.

Iris tenax ssp. tenax has purple, lavender, yellow, or creamy white to rarely white flowers. The sepals are widely spreading and arching downward with veins a darker shade of the color of the sepal and a light yellow ridge. The petals are the same color as the sepals but with lighter colored veins. The petals are upright, shorter, and narrower than the sepals. The inflorescence has one, and occasionally, two flowers. The flowering stalks are shorter than the attending leaves. The leaves are light green, upright, and slightly reflexed, basal with a pink to straw base, tufted, and deciduous from branching rhizomes with fibrous roots, occurring in compact, dense clumps.

toughleaf iris.
Toughleaf iris is geographically isolated from its cousin the Klamath iris, occurring only in Washington and Oregon. Photo courtesy Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris.

toughleaf iris.
The rainbow of colors that are displayed by the Pacific coast irises is a delight to behold especially with this lavender and cream toughleaf iris. Photo courtesy Society for Pacific Coast Native Iris.

Iris tenax ssp. tenax is found growing in sunny to lightly shaded oak woodlands.

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Iris tenax ssp. klamathensis: Klamath Iris

The Klamath iris occurs in extreme northwestern California in the Klamath Mountains.

the Klamath iris.
The Klamath iris is only known to occur in the Klamath Mountains in northwestern California. Photo by Carol Wilson, The Genus Iris.

Map of the range of Iris tenax ssp. klamathensis in California.
Range map of Iris tenax ssp. klamathensis in California. Courtesy of the USDA PLANTS Database.

Iris tenax ssp. klamathensis has creamy yellow to light apricot flowers. The sepals are widely spreading and arching downward with deep maroon to brownish red veins. The petals are the same color as the sepals but with lighter colored veins. The petals are upright, shorter, and narrower than the sepals. The petals are narrower and smaller than Iris tenax ssp. tenax. The inflorescence has one occasionally two flowers. The flowering stalks are shorter than the attending leaves. The leaves are light green, upright and slightly reflexed, basal with a pink to straw base, tufted, and evergreen from branching rhizomes with fibrous roots, occurring in compact, dense clumps.

Klamath iris.
This view of a beautiful Klamath iris shows how the veins and the yellow signal direct pollinators down into the flower. Photo by Robert Potts.

Iris tenax ssp. klamathensis is found growing in shaded mixed evergreen forests.

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