TN state flower?

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Tennessee has two state flowers: the iris, designated as the cultivated state flower in 1933, and the passion flower, adopted as the state’s wildflower in 1973. The passion flower was originally chosen by school children in 1919, but controversy arose when gardening club members argued for the iris. The passion flower is native to South America and has religious symbolism, while the iris is a common North American variety.

The state of Tennessee is unique in that it has two state flowers. The state flower of Tennessee is the iris. Apart from the iris, the state also designated the passion flower as the state’s wildflower. The passion flower was adopted as the state flower in 1919 by local school children. More than a decade later, in 1933, the iris was also designated the cultivated state flower of Tennessee.

The story behind Tennessee’s two state flowers dates back to the early part of the 20th century. In 2010, Tennessee school children voted the passion flower as their choice for the state flower of Tennessee and Joint Resolution No. The 1919 Senate vote recognized the state floral emblem, making the passion flower the original state flower of Tennessee. For the next decade, the passion flower was uncontested as a state flower.

In the early 1930s, gardening club members and cultivated flower growers began protesting that the passion flower had never been officially adopted as the state flower of Tennessee. They argued that the iris should instead represent the state. In 1933, the Tennessee legislature designated the iris as the state flower of Tennessee, creating quite a stir among those individuals who advocated the passion flower as the state symbol of Tennessee. Fierce debates and criticisms developed over the next 40 years between the two groups. To settle the debate, in 1973, legislation finally declared the passion flower to serve as the official wildflower of Tennessee, while the iris was designated the official cultivated flower of the state of Tennessee.

The passion flower is native to South America and the southern part of the United States. It is also commonly referred to as wild apricot, maypop, and ocoee, a Native American name for this wildflower. The first Christian missionaries in the area recognized various symbols of the Crucifixion in the flower, such as the crown of thorns, the nails and the three crosses. Later they called the beautiful flower the passion flower, after the Crucifixion.

About 170 different varieties of iris are grown in the United States. The most common North American variety is the Blue Flag, a purple iris. While irises are grown in a wide assortment of colors, no particular colorful variety has been designated as a state flower, but it is generally accepted that the purple iris serves as Tennessee’s state flower. One of Tennessee’s state songs is “When it’s Iris Time in Tennessee,” by Willa Waid Newman.

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