Blackberry Lily

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Blackberry Lily
Blackberry Lily

Common Name: Blackberry Lily[1]

Scientific Name: Belamcanda chinensis

This Asian perennial, which Thomas Jefferson called "Chinese Ixia," is actually a member of the Iris family. Jefferson first received seed from nurseryman Bernard McMahon in 1807, during his second term as President of the United States.[2] These were sown in an East Front oval flowerbed at Monticello.[3] Today the blackberry lilies that are found naturalized throughout Monticello are believed to be descendants of Jefferson’s original plantings.

The Blackberry Lily is a hardy, herbaceous summer-flowering perennial with red-spotted orange flowers on stalks, followed by unusual seed heads that resemble blackberries, but the seeds are not edible.


  1. This article is based on a Center for Historic Plant Information Sheet.
  2. Betts, Garden Book, 337. See also Edwin M. Betts, Hazlehurst Bolton Perkins, and Peter J. Hatch, Thomas Jefferson's Flower Garden at Monticello, 3rd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986), 54.
  3. Betts, 335.

Further Sources