Tennessee has three official state flowers. The Tennessee coneflower and the passion flower are the designated state wildflowers while the iris is the designated official state cultivated flower.
Why Does Tennessee Have Three Official State Flowers?
The Tennessee General Assembly passed the Senate Resolution 13 of 1919 which required the state to adopt a flower chosen by school children as the state floral emblem. The students selected the passion flower through a popular vote. In 1933, the General Assembly adopted the Senate Resolution 53 that designated the iris (genus Iridaceae) as the official state flower. However, the resolution failed to rescind the passion flower from the official status. In early 1973, the Assembly declared the iris the state's official cultivated flower and the passion flower as the state wildflower. In 2012, the Assembly adopted the Tennessee Echinacea as the second state wildflower.
Wildflowers of Tennessee
The passion flower is a wild plant that grows in South America and the southern United States. It is also known as the maypop or the Ocoee flower. The plant was named “Ocoee” by Native Americans; the name also applies to the Ocoee Valley and River. Christian missionaries named the flower “passion flower” because some parts resembled the symbols of the crucifixion; the thorny crown, the cross, the cords, and nails.
The Tennessee coneflower is sometimes referred to as the Tennessee Echinacea or the Tennessee purple coneflower. The plant is among the few that thrive in the Cedar Glades and limestones of central Tennessee. The Tennessee coneflower was considered extinct but it was found again in the 1960s. Conservation efforts saw the state purchase land to conserve the flowers and the plants naturally recovered. The Tennessee coneflower blooms between spring to autumn.
Official Cultivated Flower of Tennessee
The iris was awarded the official status in 1973. It was meant to replace the passion flower but the resolution that adopted it failed to rescind the official status from the sunflower. There approximately 170 different species of the iris, the common being the flag iris. The resolution that adopted the plant as the official floral emblem did not specify a specific color or variety of the iris, but the citizenry has for long accepted the purple colored iris as the state’s official cultivated flower.