The Tennessee State Flower is the Iris (Genus Iridaceae) and is also known as the German Iris, the Bearded Iris, or the Iris Kochii. A native to central and southern Europe, the Germanic Iris, like much of the United States, was imported with European settlers.
In 1919, the state’s school children selected the Passionflower to be the Tennessee State Flower. Later that year, a state senate joint resolution adopted the Passionflower as an emblem to represent the state. However, that decision was short-lived. In the 1930’s as garden clubs throughout the state became very popular, so did the support to change the state’s flower. Supporters for the change had claimed the passionflower was never officially adopted by the state’s legislature, the residents called for a more modern selection. In 1933, the state’s legislature passed a bill naming the Iris the official Tennessee State Flower. With roughly some 170 species of the iris plant, the legislature failed to select a specific type of color. Over the years the purple iris has become to be considered by the locals, to be the state flower. For nearly 40 years the supporters of the passionflower criticized the passage of the iris flower as the state’s official flower. In 1973 a compromised was reached. The Tennessee Legislature declared the passionflower, the original state flower to be the official state wildflower. The iris, which was adopted in 1933, became the official state cultivated flower. With the verdict reached, both sides were pleased, as they were able to both represent Tennessee.
The Iris plant consists of 3 groups: the dwarfs, the intermediates, and the tall. The latter of the groups tends to be found in manicured lawns and home gardens. The tall, home garden iris was the style beloved by garden clubs who prompted the change in the state’s legislature. The Iris flower is very similar to that of the orchid flower. Normally seen in buds of 9–12, the flower grows on the short side of the branches on each stem. Each flower has several petals and sepals. The three upright petals are known as the standards, while the three sepals that droop off of the flower are called the falls. Although all the standards will be of one color, it is normal for the sepals to be of a different color. A beautiful plant when fully bloomed, it is unfortunate that each flower only last for roughly 3 days. When in bloom, the iris flowers are 3 inches wide and are bearded. The beard is the fuzzy appendage above the falls. The stems of the iris plant are long as to protrude itself from the surrounding landscape for one to admire its natural beauty.
The Tennessee State Flower is an herbaceous perennial, blooming year after year throughout the state. The warm summer months of June, July, and August, provide idea climate for the iris’s flowering season. When in full bloom, the Tennessee State Flower releases a beautiful fragrance that is enjoyed by many of the state’s residents.