Richmond Spaces
Blackberry Lily
Appealing mid-summer bloomer deserves a closer look
TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY BY GINA DENNISTON

Belamcanda chinensis is the botanical name for the underused blackberry lily. Not actually a lily, it is a member of the iris family, largely owing to its swordlike foliage.

The orange and red coloration of the blackberry lily flower really pops. In the fall seed pods burst open to reveal shiny black seeds.

So what is this nonlily, and why the blackberry moniker?

It is a herbaceous perennial that blooms in July and August and whose flowers resemble, in a diminutive, less-in-your-face way, a tiger lily. In late summer seed heads open up to reveal a cluster of black, shiny seeds reminiscent of blackberry fruit.

The blooms open for only a day, but this plantís charm lies in the pop of orange it provides amongst its long, pale-green leaves. (It also comes in yellow.) The red spots scattered across the orange petals are rather sweet.

Blackberry lily grows in clumps, which can add a lot of substance to a needy spot in the garden. Plus, it is easy to grow in ordinary well-drained soil in full or partial sun. Propagate it by dividing the clumps or by sowing seeds. If you know someone who grows this plant, ask for a division in the fall. (It is difficult to find plants to buy.)

According to monticello.org, Thomas Jefferson planted blackberry lilies in an oval flower bed at Monticello in 1807. Does anyone need a better reference than that?