One of the most interesting and beautiful blooms in my garden has to be the one coming from an unusual member of the Iris family — the Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis).
Walking iris is a flowering plant which is native to Brazil. I came by this plant for the first time in Coorg, many years back. The owner of the property I had stayed in was very gracious and allowed me to take a piece of it back home. Since then, it has graced my balcony garden and we all at home have been enjoying its lovely blooms.
The flower has three inner petals that grow upward, rolled-up and three horizontal petals that bloom outward against sharp, green leaves with a sword-like shape.
The petals form a very unique and interesting shape, almost creating an impression of the defensive posture of a praying mantis or such 🙂
There are different varieties of walking iris, all of which bloom yellow, blue, or white flowers. For example, Neomarica longifolia blooms yellow flowers, while Neomarica gracilis blooms white flowers.
What makes the plant unusual and what gives it the interesting name is the way the plant propagates itself. The Iris appears to “walk” throughout the garden and the outdoor landscapes as it fills the area with additional plantlets. As new sprouts form at the top of the flower stalk, the plant bends toward the ground and takes root. It repeats this process for each new bloom, thus giving the illusion of walking or moving about as it spreads.
Walking iris is also called the fan iris for the fan-like growing characteristic of its leaves. Another interesting aspect of this plant is that it is also referred to as the Apostle plant because there are usually twelve leaves in a fan — one for each apostle. Most Neomarica will not bloom until the plant has 12 leaves.
Neomarica is a clumping perennial that reaches anywhere from 18 to 36 inches (45-90 cm.). And once you see its flowers, you will appreciate another of its common names—the poor man’s orchid. This exotic-looking plant with its graceful sword-like foliage has beautiful flowers that resemble a cross between those of an orchid and an iris. Although they are short lived, lasting only a day, numerous blooms continue to follow over an extended period of time throughout spring, summer and fall.
The flower buds start out looking like a lovely box or more accurately like a delicacy that we make in India called the Modak (Kozhakattai in Tamil), most commonly offered to the lord Ganesha.
Then the petals start opening out, slowly, taking their own sweet time.
Here’s an attempt to capture a time-lapse of the blooming process. It all feels like a lovely present unwrapping itself!