Species Group

Welcome to the Species Group of the British Iris Society (BIS).

We started as a study group of members of BIS who were interested in Iris species rather than the cultivars of bearded Irises, which are ably catered for by the main Society.

The Group has a long and illustrious history; most of the famous names in the world of Irises and other ‘bulbous’ plants have at one time or another been members. The original intention was for exchange of information about Iris between members. This is still the case today as can be seen from recent newsletters that have contained articles about and publication and description of new taxa.

Other benefits of membership include access to the BIS seed exchange and its shows.

It is difficult to be precise about when the Group formed, but the first documented meeting was held in February 1966.

It was probably formed shortly before this by a small group meeting informally after the monthly shows at the RHS Halls in London.

The Group has always been fairly informal and rarely keeps to a strict routine of events and publications.

We do try to produce at least one Bulletin or Newsletter each year to contain information about new developments in knowledge of Iris species.

At each of the BIS shows each year we produce a visual display of photographs of interesting Iris species using photographs of plants seen in the wild by our members on their recent travels.

Every few years (or thereabouts) we organize a Species Group Iris Day, where we arrange a day devoted to species Iris and provide interesting speakers on topical Iris subjects, workshops, an auction, and seed exchange.

The Group put together and edited a Guide to Species Iris which is published by Cambridge University Press. This has recently been reissued in paperback.

Other well received publications include the 2007 Bulletin which was entirely devoted to Oncocyclus Iris. Demand was so great from non members that it was reprinted two years later. It has now sold out again so we will have to decide whether we can justify another reprint. We have just produced the 2018 Bulletin on Juno Iris that contains the most recent taxonomy on this fascinating group.

We look forward to seeing you at one of the events.


Chairman                                      Brian Mathew MBE, VMH


Secretary/Treasurer                       David Stephens

76 South Terrace, Dorking, Surrey. RH4 2AQ



Newsletter/ Bulletin editor              Tim Loe


Committee                                     Colin Barr, Sidney Linnegar



The subscription currently remains at £5 per calendar year.

Subscriptions are due from 1st January each year.

Send cheque made payable to BIS Species Group or cash.

Overseas members please pay by banknote £UK, $US, EURO’s accepted.

Send to treasurer David Stephens at above address.



We have e-mail addresses for a percentage of the membership.

Would all members please let us know your e-mail address.

As a Group we could do so much more spontaneously and pass on news of interest if we could e-mail members. Also there is the fact that there is no postage cost attached. A newsletter will cost about £3 by the time it has been put through your letter box; if it could be e-mailed it would cost nothing. Less cost will help us keep the subscription rate low and enable us to produce the glossy Bulletins you now receive. Please send an e-mail to irisspeciesgroup@hotmail.co.uk



We have scanned past editions of the newsletter and bulletins issued by the Group over the years. It is important that material such as this is saved for posterity. There is now an archive of these publications in electronic pdf format. This was not an easy task to do. Not so much the actual physical task of loading it repetitively into the scanner as actually sorting out the material itself. Firstly I had to locate a set of bulletins and newsletters. Not many members can go back to the formation of the Group in the mid 1960’s, but Brian Mathew luckily could. After a bit of searching he found the file and I went to pick them up. ‘They may not be in order’ were Brian’s prophetic words as I left his house.

Normally, putting documents into order is simply a matter of looking at the issue number or sequential dating system. Not so in the case of the Species Group!! Our quirky Group in its early days entirely abandoned any sort of reference as to when issues were produced, no numbers, no dates, nothing. There was also no seeming logic to how many issues there were each year or when. I was forced to read each document to put them in order by reference to each other. This lack of identification also means that I have no way of knowing whether I ended up with a complete set.  I am fairly sure that it is comprehensive but there are some worryingly large gaps between issues.

If there are any members out there who have a complete set of every piece of paper they have ever received from the Group please let me know so I can check what I have got against what you have got.

If any member wants a set in pdf format let me know by e-mailing to irisspeciesgroup@hotmail.co.uk.


David Stephens