By Leora McTall
The Blackberry Lily (Iris domestica) may suffer from identity crisis. For one reason, it is also called Leopard Lily. But most flowers do have more than one name, so this fact alone should not cause confusion for this pretty little two inch orange, round, red- spotted flower. Of course, the spots give the flower the name of Leopard Lily.
The Blackberry Lily is not in the lily (lilium) family, but is a member of the iris (iridaceae) family. Its sword-like leaves resemble iris leaves, but they grow more in the pattern of a gladiolus. Its shiny black seeds grow in clusters, and from a distance they look just like blackberries – but please, no pies. These seeds are not edible.
Growing to a height of three feet, Blackberry Lilies are blooming now (late July and August), and the flowers and the seeds may be used in bouquets. The rhizomes creep slowly to multiply, and they may also self-seed. They are hardy here in our Washington, Marion, Clinton and Jefferson County areas, basically known as Zone 6 in the USDA Hardiness Zone Map.
China is the origin of this flower where it is used for medicinal purposes. According to Wikipedia, "studies are underway to investigate its apparent potential against prostate cancer" as well as being used in China to treat throat trouble, asthma, gonorrhea, malaria and several other ailments.
Thomas Jefferson is said to have grown Blackberry Lilies, and they can be seen today growing at Monticello, believed to be the descendants of his own flowers. Back in 1807 during Jefferson's presidency, this plant was called Chinese Ixia. That is one more addition to the list of names and confusion for Blackberry Lily.
Seeds are available for purchase at several sources. If you would like to add this pretty flower to your garden, gardeners like to share!
There is a Blackberry Lily known as "Hello Yellow" which is a butter yellow dwarf (20") with no spots. Only one source was found, which was rather pricey. It might be fun to find this one!
So, who am I? The Blackberry Lily is not a lily, it is an iris, but its leaves grow like a glad. Its seeds are not blackberries. It is not a leopard, and its name is no longer Chinese Ixia. But clearly, it is a pretty little flower, very easy to grow, has intriguing seeds, and may, one day, donate to a cure for cancer.
Mark your calendar for the Fall Master Gardener Plant Swap on September 24 from 8:00- 12:00 at the Nashville Library grounds. Bring a plant, take home a plant.
"Who Am I?" Asks The Blackberry Lily