blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis)
Gemmingia chinensis (L.) Kuntze
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of blackberry lily is Belamcanda chinensis (L.) DC. This remarkable plant has the leaves of an iris (Iris sp.), the flowers of a lily (Lilium sp.), and a fruit that resembles a blackberry (Rubus sp.). There is nothing that quite resembles it. The flower of blackberry lily has only 3 stamens, while the flower of a lily has 6 stamens. The blackberry lily differs from other members of the Iris Family in having 3 distinct stamens that are not petal-like in appearance. It is still unclear whether the blackberry lily will become invasive. This species is listed as Iris domestica in the Flora of Virginia.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This introduced plant has an erect central stalk is 23½' tall and
either branched or unbranched; it is terete, fairly stout, glabrous, glaucous,
and pale green.
Leaves: Blackberry lily has sword-shaped alternate leaves about ¾2' long;
they originate primarily toward the bottom of the flowering stalk. These
leaves are often grouped together into the shape of a fan; they are green to
grey-blue, linear in shape, glabrous, and glaucous. Their margins are smooth, while their veins are parallel.
Flowers: This stalk terminates in a cyme or compound cyme of flowers.
There are pairs of small linear-lanceolate bracts at each fork of the stalk;
these bracts are slightly membranous and tend to wither away. Each flower
spans about 1¼2" across, consisting of 6 spreading tepals, 3 distinct sta-
mens, a style with a tripartite stigma, and an inferior ovary. The tepals are
orange with purple dots and elliptic-oblong in shape, while the ovary is
green, glabrous, and narrowly ovoid. Each cyme usually produces several flowers. There is no noticeable floral scent.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by an oblongoid seed capsule about
1" long; the 3 sides of this capsule become strongly recurved, revealing a
mass of shiny black seeds that resembles a blackberry.
Roots: The root system consists of a thickened crown at the base of the
plant, which has fibrous roots underneath; spreading rhizomes are also
produced. Both the crown and rhizomes have an orange interior.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Blackberry lily can spread by either
rhizomes or seeds.
HABITAT TYPES: In the wild, it is uncommon. Habitats include thin
woodlands, rocky bluffs, hillsides, fallow fields, roadsides, and sites of
old homesteads. Blackberry lily was introduced from East Asia as an
ornamental plant and it is often cultivated in gardens because of the
attractive foliage and flowers.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: The preference is full or partial sun, moist
to dry conditions, and soil that is loamy, rocky, or sandy. The flowers and
foliage are rarely bothered by disease or insect pests.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
to late summer and lasts about 1-2 months.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Blackberry lily is primarily a species of
the eastern part of the United States (it is not usually found in Canada).
From Florida to the southern New England states, and westward to Texas
north to South Dakota, blackberry lily is not found in the much of western
Great Plains region, Rocky Mountain states, southwestern states or the far western Pacific states. While it is believed to be spreading, it is not yet
deemed an invasive species. It does not seem to significantly compete with
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Very little is known about floral-faunal
relationships for this introduced plant. The flowers offer nectar and
pollen to insects and other floral visitors, but it unclear who these
visitors are. There are anecdotal reports that the seeds are eaten by
birds. Blackberry lily was originally brought to the United States as
an ornanmental. It is still used in that capacity; escaped specimens are
responsible for its wide ranging distribution.
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