Tennessee State Wild Flower
Adoption of the Tennessee State Wild Flower
Tennessee's First Official Flower
Tennessee began the process of selecting an official flower when it realized that it was one of only ten states without this official representative. At the request of the Governor, State Senator Andrew Todd and State Representative Seth Walker sponsored legislation that would establish a mechanism by which a state flower could be selected. On January 13, 1919, the Sixty-first General Assembly of Tennessee adopted Senate Joint Resolution No. 13. The legislation read, in part,
Additionally, the resolution went on to say,
Favorites of the children around the state listed in the Nashville Banner included the daisy, elder bloom, goldenrod, red clover, rose, sunflower, water lily, wild rose, and violet. The passionflower was not even listed in this January 26, 1919 article.
Counting the votes was left to the commission that had been selected by the Governor. When the counting was over, the commission certified the passionflower the winner.
The results were published in newspapers and a pamphlet was created to celebrate the occasion. Put together by State Librarian and Archivist John Trotwood Moore, 10,000 copies of Tennessee: State Flag-Flower-Song-Seal and Capitol were printed and distributed.
Mr. Moore even wrote a poem for the passionflower, which he called a "most fitting" selection. The poem was published in Tennessee: State Flag-Flower-Song-Seal and Capitol with an introduction:
Two State Flowers
Fast-forward 11 years to 1930.
In the early 1930s, flower gardening was gaining popularity in the state. Along with the increased interest in flower gardening came garden clubs and along with garden clubs came appreciation and fascination with the iris, a flower that had been cultivated for thousands of years.
The Nashville Iris Association, established in 1931, gained national and even international attention for its efforts in breeding and growing irises. Nashville became known as the Iris City.
With the growth of the garden clubs, the dissatisfaction with the passionflower as a representative of the state grew as well and the iris was promoted to become Tennessee's official state flower. Iris supporters claimed that the passionflower had never been officially adopted. Soon, the Tennessee Legislature joined in the promotion.
With Joint Resolution No. 53, approved on April 19,1933, the iris (genus Iridaceae) was adopted as the "State flower of Tennessee." The resolution read, in part
Adoption of the passionflower in 1919 was ignored. Joint Resolution No. 53 admitted no knowledge of the previous resolution adopting the passionflower selected by the school children of the state.
Tennessee now had two adopted state flowers.
Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist John Trotwood Moore, who had penned the poem, Ocoee, to honor adoption of the passionflower in 1919, died in May 1929. His wife, Mary Daniel Moore, who had worked with him for many years, took over his position as State Librarian and Archivist. In a letter, dated December 4, 1933, she wrote.
War of the State Flowers
When the bill adopting the iris was publicized, there was an uproar. The passionflower, adopted 14 years earlier, in 1919, had not been forgotten. Garden clubs, botanists, and newspapers across the state all had something to say.
Several years later...1939.
About six months later however, the position of the garden club presidents reached in Chattanooga was reversed at a Tennessee Garden Clubs convention.
As passions ebbed and time marched on, the iris gained in stature as Tennessee's official state flower and the passionflower was relegated to history as the state's first official state flower. In 1935, "When It's Iris Time in Tennessee," by Willa Mae Waid was adopted as Tennessee's second official state song. In 1949, headlines were made when Governor Gordon Browning provided purple automobiles (honoring the iris) to the nation's other 47 governors for a National Governor's Conference.
Passionflower Becomes Official Wildflower
Twenty-four years passed. Then, in 1973, the issue of a state flower was brought up by State Senator Edward Blank. According to Senator Blank he was being urged to introduce the legislation to make the iris the state cultivated flower and the passionflower the state wild flower. He said, "The people of the good garden clubs across the state would like this resolved." Perhaps the most influential urging came from his mother, Mrs. Fred L. Blank, who was an active member of the Hampton Garden Club and the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs.
To eliminate this confusion, in 1973 the 88th General Assembly, by Chapter 16, designated the passionflower the state wild flower and the iris the state cultivated flower.
The Tennessee Code
The following information is excerpted from the Tennessee Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 3, Section 4-1-306.
TITLE 4. STATE GOVERNMENT.
The passionflower (passiflora incarnata) is designated as the state wild flower.
[Acts 1973, ch. 16, § 1; T.C.A., § 4-117.]
Passiflora incarnata (Maypop): Plant Encyclopedia from MyGardenGuide.
Plant Profile for Passiflora incarnata L. (Purple Passionflower): USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Web site for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.
State Flower List: List of all of the state flowers.
State Birds & Flowers 1000-pc Puzzle: Created at the request of The National Wildlife Federation this design is a beautiful and informative puzzle featuring every state bird perched on the appropriate state flower.
State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book by Annika Bernhard - 51 accurately detailed, copyright-free renderings include national bird (eagle) and flower (rose) plus 50 state birds and flowers.
U. S. State Flowers in Cross Stitch by Gerda Bengtsson - Botanically correct cross stitch designs of state flowers of the 50 States.
Quilting Flowers of the States by Sue Harvey - A lovely 12-inch flower block for each of the 50 states. Techniques used are piecing, appliqué, paper-piecing and three-dimensional techniques.
Plants, Seeds & Flowers: Bulbs, seeds, plants, fertilizer, plant containers and more.
Gardening Tools: Pruners, rakes, shovels, hoes, trowels, cultivators and tillers, greenhouses, yard carts and more.
State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: A Study based on historical documents giving the origin and significance of the state names, nicknames, mottoes, seals, flowers, birds, songs, and descriptive comments on the capitol buildings and on some of the leading state histories, Revised Edition - George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938 (Reprint Services Corp. 1971)
Source: Tennesee Code and Constitution, (http://184.108.40.206/tennessee/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=fs-main.htm&2.0), September 12, 2005
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