Isophysis tasmanica

Nuytsia@Tas@Flickr is responsible for today’s photograph from the Sentinel Range in Tasmania. Thanks for the photograph and introducing the genus to me (Isophysis tasmanica via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool).

Isophysis is one of 15 or so recognized genera of vascular plants endemic to Tasmania. The genus is monotypic, meaning Isophysis tasmanica is the only species. As noted by Nuytsia@Tas, Isophysis is the basal group in the iris family. In other words, it has been determined to be the earliest group to diverge from the rest of the Iridaceae. Sometimes, the terminology “primitive” is used instead (e.g., the most primitive group in the iris family), but that term carries some scientific imprecision and is generally avoided these days.

With its sometimes-nodding flower heads, reflexed tepals and superior ovary (unique among the Iridaceae for this characteristic), the species can superficially resemble some species of Erythronium (Liliaceae). The fan-shaped leaf clusters growing from the ground, however, clearly suggest iris family to me.

Plants of Tasmanian purplestar grow to 30cm (12 in.), and sport either the dark purple flowers seen in today’s photo or occasionally pale yellow flowers. It is a species of alpine and subalpine environments in Tasmania, preferring habitats dominated by heath or sedges. It might be something we could grow in the Australasian section of the E. H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden here at UBC, so I’ve suggested it to the Curator for the area, Brent Hine.

Isophysis tasmanica

4 responses to “Isophysis tasmanica”

  1. Nadia

    It is quite a rare plant, one single species and only in Tasmania! No chance to see it!

  2. Robin Banks

    Thanks for introducing me to a local (Tasmanian) plant that I have never seen before. One of the lovely things about living in a place with lots of remote wilderness areas is that there are so many plants, etc, that are just out there being.

  3. elizabeth a airhart

    and the stars fell to the earth one night thence came the flowers
    if you all have a mind to arklive has the all over winner of the
    photo contest—six spot burnet moths on grass seed heads
    we all like our photos around here do we not ti’s a good one
    thank you daniel and company thank you indeed

  4. Chris Flees

    Thank you for your great write up on this rare and beautiful flower. I know many people who see the iris as a staple in their flower beds and a reddish purple iris would be highly desired. I would suspect that this plant would also be well received by those who favor lilies due to its shape. It is a shame that its only indigenous to Tasmania.

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