06 August 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Chinese Ixia

Belacamda Lily was Belamcanda chinensis until about a year ago. Then botanists started playing with the names of some plants due to newfound genetic knowledge, and presto. The name changed to Iris domestica. Could its leaves actually resemble the irs family?

The seeds hopped into my goodie bag at the annual Seed Swap in February 2012. Here we go again with another free plant from the seed swap or from a neighbor. During the first year, they were sown indoors and transplanted, producing one flower stalk that summer. The next year, (last summer) the plant came back half-heartedly, but did not bloom.

Seeds were also sent to Thomas Jefferson in 1807. He planted them in a Monticello flower garden, and referred to them as 'Chinese Ixia.' Today they are found naturalized around the grounds at Monticello.

This is not a lily but it is from China, central Asia, and India. It was used in some Chinese medicine, but analysis shows it to be mildly toxic. Recent tests on mice indicate a possible benefit in fighting prostate cancers - at least in mice.

My plant from last summer came around this year after surviving the harsh winter. I also planted a few seeds remaining from the 2012 seed swap batch. One germinated and survived without receiving much attention. The two healthy plants started blooming a week ago, so they bloom in their first year.

I was smart to place them right up front along the walk where they can be seen. Even though tall at 2-feet (60 cm) they can be lost visually if not in your face. The seed pods upon opening reveal seed clusters resembling blackberries, giving it the nickname 'blackberry lily.' My remaining seeds will be planted, along with any new seed from these plants, in hopes of creating a clump for next year.

For The Record:
  • Light clay soil with organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No disease although suspected iris borer attack

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, mexican zinnia, zinnia, cleome, sunflowers, phlox, rudbeckia, echinacea, hosta
  • Harvested: 12 peppers, 6 tomatoes

3 comments:

J Clark said...
Those are lovely - delicate without being too wimpy.
Les said...
Where I work this plant is a little too happy and tends to move around the garden.
Swimray said...
J,
Contrary to their looks, they are not delicate.

Les,
I wish they would be happy here. I saw a large number clustered together and they looked great. I am trying for that but have a long way to go.