If you ask most people what their favorite flower is, you’ll most likely get a different answer from each person. However, if you ask Jordanians what their favorite flower is, you’re likely to get the same answer – the Black Iris! And who can blame them really? After all, the Black Iris is as beautiful and endemic to the kingdom as its people are.
The Black Iris is known as Iris nigricans, plantsthat belong to the species Iris chrysographes of the genus Iris. However, the Iris nigricans is a name that seems oxymoronic as iris in Greek means rainbow. Still, “rainbow of black” may not be too far from a true description of the national flower. Indeed, you’ll find it growing throughout Jordan in a gradation of colors from deep purple to black.
A closer inspection of the black iris flower reveals a marvel of nature’s engineering. Six petals, three upright and three drooping (also known as “sepals”) make up the iris’ black blossom. On the three sepal petals are a band of colored hairs called a “beard”. This let let’s you know this is no ordinary iris. Rather, Jordan’s national flower is actually a black bearded iris. However, don’t let this fool you. It has nothing to do with the gender of the flower.
In fact, the black iris is a monoecious plant, meaning it has both male and female reproductive parts. If you look just above the beard, you’ll see the male part of the flower known as a stamen. Nearby are two lobes – the female part of the iris that receives pollen.
When a honeybee or hummingbird comes to collect pollen or nectar, it has to push the stigma and petals apart. Thus, after going from flower to flower, it disseminates pollen from the stamen of other flowers. Once pollinated, they’ll produce seed pods which will later burst forth and scatter the seeds on the ground below. This is why you’ll often find them growing in clusters in the wild.
If you’ve come to Jordan just to see black iris, Amman is a good place to start. And be sure to come in spring or late autumn as that’s when the flowers are in bloom.
Head south out of Amman on Highway 35. When you get about halfway between Madaba and Amman you’ll see a stand of about three dozen to your south. What’s more, continuing south to Dibhan, black irises are so plentiful, they seem to almost line the road.
Though you may be tempted, do not pick any of the flowers. As its national flower, Jordan has many laws which protect the plant. Besides, they don’t last long once you cut them. That is, they will likely be wilted by the time you get them home.
(It’s also important to note that there is a very nice farm called the Black Iris Farm in Madaba. However, it’s more petting zoo than actual black iris farm.)
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