Oncocyclus irises, also known as Aril irises, constitute a section within the genus of irises (a “section” is a biological rank between species and genus). The splendid and palatial shape of the flower, its vivid colors, and its elegant position above the leaves made the iris a popular symbol from ancient times in both Western and Eastern cultures. It has been suggested that one of the irises in this group may be the flower mentioned in the Bible (Kings I, Chapter 7) as one of the decorations in Solomon’s Temple.
The garden covers an area of approximately one square kilometer and is planned to include some fifty species of iris found in nature. The natural distribution of this group of flowers is along a narrow strip from the Caucuses south through Turkey and on to the southern Negev in Israel. Many species of Oncocyclus iris are rare and some even face extinction due to the destruction of habitats and the difficulty in relocating these plants. The Nature and Parks Authority and the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens are cooperating in the project; Mr. David Shahak is responsible for the collection and raising of the plants. Specimens collected from disturbed habitats were transferred for acclimatization at Ramat Hanadiv’s nursery and are now being placed in the ground.
The Irises flower from February through April and the display will become increasingly impressive as the years pass.