Wednesday, May 23, 2012

LA Irises, The Wildflower of the State of Louisiana

The LA iris is the official wildflower of the State of LA.  The state flower is the magnolia.  The magnolia is also the state flower of several other southern states.  The Society for Louisiana Irises has been trying to get the state legislature to change the state flower to the LA iris. Such a change would be very expensive as all the state documents would have to be changed.  So, it will probably never happen.
Magnolia grandiflora blossom (commonly known as the southern magnolia)
Southern Magnolia blossom bud

Meantime this "wildflower", that does grow wild in LA and many other states in the south and up the Mississippi River, continues to be grown across the United States and in many foreign countries.  Some of the most prolific hybridizers (those who cross one iris with another) of LA irises are located in New Zealand and Australia.

LA Irises growing in "Bayou"
One of the most interesting things, to me, about the LA irises are their unusual names.  Of course a lot of LA irises have "Cajun" names since south LA is the home of the LA irises and the "Cajuns" (.Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in the state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles).  For example, 'C'est Si Bon' (Taylor, JC 1983) is a really nice LA iris with a white spray pattern around the signals and carries a very "Cajun" name.  C'est Si Bon can be translated as "It's so good".

'C'est Si Bon'
Many LA irises contain the south LA term "Bayou".  A bayou is a low-lying body of water, a marsh, or a slow moving body of water or a small river.   A quick search of the Society for Louisiana Irises checklist of registered LA irises revealed 51 LA irises with "Bayou" as part of the name.

'Cedar Bayou' (Strawn, K 1993)
'Bayou Mystique' (Dunn, Mary 1988)
'Bayou Shadow' (Arny, Charles 1978)
'Bayou Sunset' (MacMillian, W.B. 1945)
Just click the pictures to see them full size.  If you look at the above small selection of LA irises with "Bayou" as part of the name, and notice the date of registration, you can see how hybridizing has changed the LA iris over a period of some 50 years.  All of these irises continue to be very popular and are grown in gardens throughout the US and in many overseas locations.

For those who chose to use "swamp" instead of "Bayou", there are seven LA irises with swamp as part of their name.

Species LA Iris growing in swamp near Abbyville, LA
 For more information on the species of irises take a look at The Species Iris Group of North America.  Of course, if you have irises growing in a swamp you must have irises with names like "Monster" and "Giant".

'Swamp Giant' (Nelson 1949)
'Swamp Pioneer' (Faggard, A 1994)

'Swamp Monster' (Durio, K 1992)
Quite a few LA irises also have "Cajun" as part of their name.  This seems reasonable since the Cajuns of South LA were certainly the first ones to collect the wild LA irises from the swamps and marshes (bayous) and grow them in their gardens. There are 27 registered LA irises with "Cajun" as part of the name.

'Cajun Love Story' (Haymon, D 1999)

'Cajun Sunrise' (Mertzweiller, J 1992)

'Wild Cajun' (Rowlan, H 1989)

'Cajun Merry' (Dunn, M 1995)

Want more LA irises with "cajun" in the name?  How about Cajun Pinstripe, Cajun Wedding, Kentucky Cajun (go figure that one!), Cajun Lace, Cajun Angel, Cajun Belle, Cajun Cookery...  The list goes on and on.

If you want to learn more about the "Cajuns" of south LA, visit Acadian Cajun for a history of the cajuns with lots of pictures and even genealogy! If you are interested in cajun food, visit The Creole and Cajun Recipe Page.

If you are interested in growing LA irises, look back at previous posts on this blog that cover that subject.  Until next time, keep growing those irises and strive to learn more about LA irises and the cajuns of south LA!

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