The purple iris (Genus Iridaceae) holds the designation of being Tennessee's official cultivated state flower. The coveted honor was bestowed upon the iris in 1933 when it became known as the state flower, but an amendment in 1973 would clarify it as the "cultivated" state flower. Nashville, Tennessee, also calls itself the "Iris City."
In 1919, Tennessee's state flower was awarded to the passionflower when votes of the state's school-age children were tallied. Garden clubs and garden enthusiasts would become disillusioned with the passionflower as the state flower representation, and there would be a big push to give the honored spot to the iris.
On April 19, 1933, the Joint Resolution No. 53 was officially passed. It declared the iris as the official state flower. The new resolution completely ignored the nomination in 1919 of the passionflower. Because of the oversight, two flowers shared the spot as the Tennessee state flower.
Mary Daniel Moore, State Librarian and Archivist, wrote a letter to the Attorney General asking for a resolution over the conflict and confusion concerning the state having two state flowers. Botanists, garden clubs and enthusiasts also began asking for clarification. It appeared that the new law declaring the iris the state flower repelled the old law that had elected the passionflower, despite the fact that there was no official clarification.
The years would pass and most people would simply view the passionflower as the old state flower and the official state flower as the iris. The state would adopt the song, "When It's Iris Time in Tennessee," by Willa Mae Waid as one of its official songs in 1935. Governor Gordon Browning would bestow the nation's 47 other governors with a purple automobile in honor of the iris at the National Governors Convention of 1949.
In 1973 State Senator Edward Blank would take steps to officially clear up the confusion over the state flowers. The 88th General Assembly, by Chapter 16, finally stated that the iris was the state's cultivated flower and the passionflower would hold a place as the state's wildflower.