Neomarica - Walking Iris -
Neomarica - Walking Iris - Neomarica spp.
Neomarica (Walking Iris or Apostle Plant) is a genus of 16 species of plants in family
Iridaceae, native to tropical regions of western Africa, and Central and South
America, with the highest diversity (12 species) in Brazil. The genus name is derived from the Greek words
neo, meaning "new", and Marica, the Roman nymph. The Greek word ‘neo’
(new) was added when it was discovered that Marica had already been used to define another
Marica is the name of water nymph in the River Liris who often hides in the shade of a sacred Italian glen named for
her. In this sacred grove, oracles revealed the future. In Roman mythology, she is the mother of
Acis, a river god, with Faunus, the Roman name for the better-known Greek god
Pan, a very old god of nature. The hooved Faunus was an aggressive lover of the
nymphs, creating many children in his orgiastic pursuit of pleasure.
Likewise the plant Neomarica is a prolific producer of
babies. This member of the Iridaceae Family (iris) produces a small flower that blooms for only one
day, rests for a few days and then blooms again. It does this for four to six
weeks. If you arrive at the right time in the early morning and touch the end of the unopened flower it will
'pop' to the perfectly-formed, three petals with spotted markings. It flowers year
round. This flower would be an ideal choice for time-lapse photography.
At the end of the day the flower will close and start preparing for its long stem
to drop to the ground where it will take root, thereby 'walking.'
They are herbaceous perennial plants that propagate by way of a thick rhizome and new plantlets that develop from the stem where flowers once
emerged. The plants grow erect, and have long slender lanceolate leaves from 30-160 cm long and 1-4 cm
broad, depending on the species. They produce very fragrant flowers that last for a short period of
time, often only 18 hours.
The flowers emerge from what appears to be just another leaf, but is really a flower stalk structured to look like the other
leaves; they are 5-10 cm diameter, and closely resemble Iris flowers. After
pollination, the new plantlet appears where the flower emerged and the stalk continues to grow
longer. The weight of the growing plantlet causes the stalk to bend toward the
ground, allowing the new plantlet to root away from its parent. This is how it obtained the common name of
"Walking Iris". The other common name "Apostle Plant" comes from the belief that the plant will not flower until the individual has at least 12
leaves, the number of apostles of Jesus.
The walking iris is produced from rhizomes and forms vigorous clumps of foliage and
spring-flowering blooms reaching up to 3 feet or more. The unusual, yet
attractive, flowers of walking iris appear to grow out of its sword-like, gray-green
leaves. In actuality, the stem bearing the flowers is fanned out, resembling the
leaves. These are followed by small plants (or offsets) that make aerial roots, which establish themselves quite
easily. The flowers of walking iris also open only for a day and then take a short rest to open again several days
later. This rest and bloom cycle goes on for 4-6 weeks.
Two of the most commonly grown species of walking iris include N. caerulea and N.
gracilis. N. caerulea has flowers that are vibrant, mid-blue with brown, orange and yellow
claws. N. gracilis has stunning blue and white flowers.
Walking iris grows in full sun to light shade in well-drained soil. Since walking iris tolerates a wide range of soil and light
conditions, this hardy plant is quite versatile in the garden. The captivating colors and fragrance also make walking iris an irresistible and welcome addition to nearly any
Faunus may still be hiding in the hammocks, a Roman nature god among
us. Certainly this prolific plant is proof that nature is still full of