By Ann Leach

As the party continues for Joplin’s 150th anniversary, May ushers in the celebration of the city flower, the iris. A self-guided tour of at least a dozen public and private area iris beds will happen Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tri-State Iris Society members will distribute maps of the iris displays (please be respectful of private home displays, observing from your vehicle or the sidewalk only), coloring sheets for the kids and iris-shaped cookies provided by Frosted Cakerie, and be available for questions about the planting and growing of iris rhizomes at the Joplin History and Mineral Museum, 504 South Schifferdecker Avenue. 

Commemorative iris-shaped cookie cutters will also be available at the museum for $10, with proceeds going to support the Celebrations Commission’s work on anniversary events throughout this year. Committee volunteer Barbara Hoeglin said, “The iris cookie cutters are only being sold at the Mineral Museum and at the Convention and Visitors Bureau. They have been purchased by cookie cutter collectors all over the country and we have just about 400 left for sale.” The cutter comes with a history card and in a cellophane bag. 

“We are hoping to make many more residents aware of the iris as our city flower,” said Diane Adams, a Celebrations Commission committee member, Iris Society member and volunteer for the iris project. “The Tri-State Iris Society has provided all of the nearly 800 rhizomes I have distributed through the city.”

According to Adams, some of those rhizomes can be quite pricey and can cost up to $60 apiece. “They come in over 1,500 varieties and color combinations like tall bearded, intermediate, dwarf and re-bloomers,” she said. “I have one called True Patriot that is red, white and blue.” 

How did the iris become the city’s flower? It was at the request of the Joplin Garden Club who presented the idea to the City Council in 1938. The club had planted 30,000 bulbs along the main roadways into Joplin, and the perennial plant was recognized for its beautiful colors and long growing season.

The Garden Club’s request was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club and several other civic groups at that time. Even the president of the Missouri State Florists Society endorsed the request, stating the flower was a hardy one that flourished in the climate and conditions of the soil in the region. 

Adams said, “They are easy to grow and just require well-drained soil and full sun. They do have to be thinned about every five years when the blooms decrease.”

The 1938 Joplin Garden Club president, Mertie Dunkle, called the iris “the Ozarks orchid” because it multiplies rapidly, can withstand drought and needs no pruning or spraying. She concluded her City Council presentation by saying, “If residents of the district unite in growing iris, we will add another attractive feature to the beauties of the Ozark region.”

Want to go?

Saturday, May 13

10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Pick up your FREE map to area iris gardens, grab coloring sheets for the kids and enjoy an iris-shaped cookie treat (and purchase a commemorative cookie cutter for $10) at the Joplin History and Mineral Museum at 504 South Schifferdecker Avenue.

Sponsored by the City of Joplin Celebrations Commission, the Tri-State Iris Society and the Joplin History and Mineral Museum.