Blackberry Lily is an erect, introduced perennial, growing on stout pale green stems from 2 to 3 feet high which can branch near the top.
The leaves are sword-like as in other members of the Iris family, and while alternate, are usually clustered near the base of the plant. They can be up to 2 feet long (but usually shorter), are linear with parallel veins and smooth surfaces.
The inflorescence is a widely branching cluster of stalked flowers atop a stem. Only one flower in the cluster opens each day. Where a stalk of the cluster forks, there are a pair of small bracts. Each stem branch near the plant top will form a flower cluster.
The flower is orange, 6-parted, up to 2 inches wide, with petals and sepals combined into tepals which have darker pigmented spots. Each tepal is in the shape of a long oval. There are three stamens and a single style with a 3-branched stigma. The stamens diverge and are not appressed to the style branches. The outer tepals are slightly larger than the inner 3.
Seed: The fruit is formed in an oblong somewhat pear shaped capsule and splits open to reveal a cluster of black fleshy seeds (usually 16) which remain on the stem after the capsule disintegrates. These resemble blackberries without the dimples, hence the common name.
Habitat: Blackberry lily grows from a rhizomatous fibrous root system that has a crown. It prefers to grow in disturbed areas such as roadsides and thickets and open woods where there is full to partial sun and moist to mesic conditions. Soils must be well drained. In the Garden you will usually see it near the edges of the path. It can be planted to make a colorful display in mid to late summer.
Names: The genus name, Belamcanda, is the Latinized East Asian name for this species and the species name, chinensis, is about referring to China, a possible source of origin. The author names for the plant classification are: First to classify was '(L.)' which refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. His work was amended by ‘DC’ - which is for Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1778-1841), Swiss botanist, who influenced Charles Darwin. He studied plants, began a systematic catalogue and has 2 genera named for him.
Above: 1st photo - the inflorescence is a small branched cluster of stalked flowers. 2nd photo - The Iris-like strap leaves. 3rd photo - Black fleshy seeds emerged from the seed pod in late September.
Below: 1st photo - Note that the 3 outer tepals are slightly larger than the 3 inner tepals. The stamens and anthers diverge and are above the level of the style. 2nd photo - One flower open at a time in a cluster.
Below: The seed heads formed. Note the remains of the small bracts where each stalk forks.
Below: When planted in groups Blackberry Lily makes an impressive display of contrasting colors.
Notes: Blackberry Lily, if found in the wild in Minnesota, is an escapee from cultivation. It is native to Asia. In the United States it has been reported established in most states in the eastern half of the country. In Minnesota, no specimens have been collected from wild populations. It is readily available in the nursery trade and widely grown as an ornamental. While Minnesota is outside of its normal hardiness zone it does grow here in select locations. The plant was not in the Garden at the time of Martha Crone's 1951 Garden Census, but was present at the time of the 1986 Garden census. It is not known the Eloise Butler ever planted it, nor do Martha Crone's notes indicate she did, but it may have been a gift to the Garden as gifts have planted a number of times. This is the only species of Belamcanda found in North America.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Identification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"