The Purple Iris was deemed the official state cultivated flower of Tennessee by the legislature in 1933.
However, Tennessee actually has two state flowers. The Purple Passionflower is the state's wildflower and the iris is the state's cultivated flower.
In 1919, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a resolution providing for a state flower to be chosen by a vote of the state's school children, with the process to be overseen by a five-member commission. The resolution stated "That the flower which shall be named by the school children and certified by the commission shall be recognized as the State flower."
Shortly after the resolution was enacted, a newspaper listed children's favorite flowers as daisy, elder bloom, goldenrod, red clover, rose, sunflower, water lily, wild rose, and violet. However, after the votes were counted, the commission announced that the school children had selected the Passionflower, making it the state flower.
The Purple Passionflower, called "Ocoee" by the Cherokee and colloquially known as "maypop," is native throughout the state and is abundant.
By the early 1930s, flower gardening was growing in popularity, garden clubs were being organized, and Nashville had become known for the iris. Gardeners campaigned to have the iris designated the state flower, and in 1933 the General Assembly adopted a resolution stating "The State of Tennessee has never adopted a State Flower" and designating the iris as the "State Flower of Tennessee."
Because the General Assembly had designated the iris as the state flower without rescinding the previous designation of the passion flower, the state essentially had two state flowers until 1973. In that year the General Assembly resolved the confusion by designating the passion flower the state wildflower and the iris the state cultivated flower.
The act naming the Iris as the state flower did not specify a particular color or variety of this diverse plant. However, according to the Tennessee Department of State the Purple Iris is considered to be the state flower.
No home in Tennessee is complete without purple Iris!
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