U.S. State Flowers and Their History
Here you can see all of the United State’s state flowers and their history of how they came to be!
Each week we will be adding a new State Flower to our blog until we’ve reached the end so please keep checking in to see what next weeks state flower will be..
Alabama – Camellia Japonica
Photo Courtesy: produto.mercadolivre.com.br
In 1927 a bill was introduced in the Alabama Legislature by Representative T. E. Martin, of Montgomery County, proposing the goldenrod as the official state flower. Many years earlier, school children had selected this flower as the state’s floral emblem because, according Mrs. Marie Bankhead Owen, Director of the Alabama Department of Archives & History in 1930,
“… it blooms everywhere and brightens the fall months with its liberal plume-like flowers.”
The goldenrod became the official state flower of Alabama on September 6, 1927, the same day that the Yellowhammer became the state bird. It represented Alabama well for over thirty years.
The ladies of Butler County were not fond of the goldenrod however and considered it undeserving in its role as state flower. It was a wildflower after all, little more than a weed they thought. They thought camellias more appropriate as a state representative and, even though the camellia comes from China, an August 26, 1959, the goldenrod was replaced by the camellia as Alabama’s official State flower.
Because there are several types of camellia, in June 1999, the Alabama Legislature agreed to specifically name Camellia Japonica as the official State flower. While they were at it and perhaps to satisfy citizens concerned about the camellia’s roots in China, the Legislature adopted the oak-leaf hydrangea as the state’s official State wildflower.
Alaska – Forget-Me-Not
Photo Courtesy: giftscollection.co
The Forget-me-not, Alaska’s state flower, is a small clump-forming perennial that grows 5 to 12 inches high in alpine meadows. The flowers have five connected salviform petals in a sky blue color, that are a quarter to a third of an inch wide. They have a white inner ring and a yellow center. The best time to spot alpine forget-me-nots is midsummer, from late June to late July. The flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, but give off little or no scent in the daytime.
The Forget-me-not was first adopted in 1907 as the official flower of the “Grand Igloo,” an organization formed by pioneers that had arrived in Alaska before 1900. They named the flower in their constitution and it quickly was adopted by the broader population as a symbol of the Alaska region.
In 1912, the US Congress passed the second Organic Act, which authorized Alaska to create a territorial government with limited powers. Just five years later a bill was introduced that proposed the Forget-me-not be declared the official floral emblem of the Territory. Esther Birdsall Darling wrote a poem for the occasion:
So in thinking for an emblem
For this Empire of the North
We will choose this azure flower
That the golden days bring forth,
For we want men to remember
That Alaska came to stay
Though she slept unknown for ages
And awakened in a day.
So although they say we’re living
In the land that God forgot,
We’ll recall Alaska to them
With our blue Forget-me-not.
The Forget-me-not was approved by the Territorial Legislature as the official floral emblem of the Alaska Territory and the Governor signed the legislation into law on April 28, 1917. Written in the margin of the bill was found the following poem:
A little flower blossoms forth
On every hill and dale,
The emblem of the Pioneers
Upon the rugged trail;
The Pioneers have asked it
And we could deny them not;
So the emblem of Alaska
Is the blue Forget-me-not.
In 1927, Benny Benson, a 13-year old Aleut boy at the time, also referenced the Forget-me not with his winning flag design. The blue field of Benny Benson’s flag, now our state flag, represents the sky and the blue Forget-me-not flower. He said, “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the Forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength.”
When Alaska entered the Union in 1959 as the 49th state, the Forget-me-not was adopted as the official state flower and floral emblem.
Arizona – Saguaro Cactus Blossom
Arkansas – Apple Blossom
Photo Courtesy: Rainier Fruit Company
In 1901, the Arkansas General Assembly designated the apple blossom—Malus (Pyrus) coronaria—the official floral emblem of Arkansas, the second state to adopt the bloom (Michigan was the first). Governor Jeff Davis signed the resolution into law on February 1 that same year.
In 1900, the Arkansas Floral Emblem Society canvassed women’s groups to gauge sentiment for a choice of state flower or floral emblem. The holly, honeysuckle, passionflower, cotton boll, and apple blossom were considered. Some opposition to the apple blossom was voiced on biblical grounds, citing the apple’s role in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and, conversely, the passionflower’s folkloric identification with Christ’s suffering. Although the Arkansas Federated Women’s Clubs (now the General Federation of Women’s Clubs) supported the passionflower, the apple blossom was championed by Love Barton, head of the Searcy (White County) chapter of the Arkansas Floral Emblem Society. Barton wrote letters to local papers and an article for the Arkansas Gazette in support of the apple blossom. The importance of the apple as a cash crop bolstered her case: 400 varieties were grown in Arkansas, and its apples had won blue ribbons at the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and the Paris Exposition of 1900. According to an account by Jane Kinley, Barton’s great-granddaughter, based on a scrapbook kept by Barton, she concluded her lobbying by taking a bushel of polished Arkansas apples to the Senate chamber on January 30, 1901.
The apple blossom remains the state’s floral emblem despite the apple’s decline in importance as an Arkansas market crop. In 2003, Arkansas ranked thirty-second in apple production. Arkansas’s 900 acres of orchards shipped about 3.4 million pounds of apples in 2002, down from nearly 15 million pounds in 1985. Ninety-five percent of Arkansas’s commodity apples are destined for fresh-market sales; the rest are sold for processing. Despite its diminished economic significance, popular sentiment still favors the apple: in Lincoln (Washington County), the annual Apple Festival pays tribute to the fruit.
Colorado – Rocky Mountain Columbine
Photo Courtesy: meetrv.com
The white and lavender Rocky Mountain Columbine was designated the official state flower of Colorado in 1899 after winning the vote of Colorado’s school children. All State Flowers
Discovered in 1820 on Pike’s Peak by mountain climber Edwin James, the Rocky Mountain columbine (Columbine Aquilegia caerulea) is a lovely flower with a rich aroma to attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies to it’s nectar. The Latin word aquila means “Eagle” and refers to the claw-like spurs at the base of the flower.
Columbines bloom in pastel shades of blue, violet, red, yellow and white. There are 70 species of columbines in the world and about 1/3 are native to North America. Colorado specifies the white and lavender Rocky Mt. Columbine which has blue-violet petals and spurs, a white cup and yellow center. Blue is a symbol of the sky, white represents snow, and yellow symbolizes Colorado’s gold mining history.
The Rocky Mountain columbine is a beautiful endemic flower threatened by collectors who want it for their rock gardens. A law was enacted in 1925 to protect this rare & delicate flower. The Colorado General Assembly wisely made it illegal to uproot the flower on public lands and the gathering of blossoms and buds is limited. It may not be picked at all on private land without the consent of the landowner.
Another honor was bestowed on the Rocky Mountain columbine in 1915 when the song “Where The Columbines Grow” was adopted as the official Colorado state song.
Connecticut – Mountain Laurel
Photo Courtesy: theflowerexpert.com
At the turn of the 20th century, over 3,000 women urged Connecticut’s state legislature to adopt the beautiful Mountain Laurel as the Connecticut state flower. However, not everyone embraced the idea at first. One senator grumbled that floral emblems were unnecessary. Ultimately though, as supportive lawmakers received sprigs of Mountain Laurel on their desks, it prevailed becoming the state flower of Connecticut in 1907.
Every year in the months of May and June, the Mountain Laurel bursts with masses of bright tiny blooms. These colorful flowers turn roadsides, wildernesses and suburban yards throughout the state delightful colors of pink, white or red.
The Mountain Laurel grows throughout the eastern half of the U.S., including the southern region of Connecticut. During blossom time, the Mountain Laurel’s beautiful flowers line the roadsides and put on a floral show for drivers along Interstate 95. Clumps of the Connecticut state flower are also prominent along the scenic Merritt Parkway as well as in the northern half of Connecticut.
Each year visitors head to Haystack Mountain State Park in Norfolk to hike among the laurel bushes. Hikers can view these beauties under stands of spruce fir or in the open clearings along the trails.
Delaware – Peach Blossom
Photo Courtesy: freegreatpicture.com
Supported by the Delaware Railroad in the early nineteenth century, Delaware became the leading producer of peaches in the United States. Almost 6,000,000 baskets of peaches were shipped to market in 1875, Delaware’s peak production year. Delaware became known as The Peach State.
By common consent, the peach blossom was considered Delaware’s state flower. But a movement developed to name the popular goldenrod the official state flower. The goldenrod the state flower of The Peach State? How could that be?
It was not to be. Agriculturists, farmers and school children flooded Delaware legislators with petitions to name the peach blossom the state flower. After all, Delaware was the leading producer of peaches with 800,000 peach trees and had earned the nickname, The Peach State.
As a result of the petition drive, the peach blossom was given due recognition. The peach blossom was adopted as Delaware’s floral emblem by an act of the legislature on March 9, 1895. In 1953, it was named as the official state flower.
Florida – Orange Blossom
Photo Courtesy: humbledpie.wordpress.com
The orange blossom (Citrus sinensis) was designated as the state flower of Florida in 1909 by its legislature.
The blossom of the orange tree is one of the most fragrant flowers in Florida. Millions of white flowers from orange trees perfume the air in central and southern Florida during orange blossom time.
Citrus fruit, especially oranges, are a major part of Florida’s economy. Florida produces the majority of citrus fruit grown in the United States. About 95 percent of commercial orange production in the state is processed (mostly as orange juice).
Georgia – Cherokee Rose
Hawaii – Hawaiian Hibiscus
Photo Courtesy: hawaii.facts.co
Originally the Hibiscus, in all colors and varieties, was the official territorial flower of the Hawaiian Islands, adopted in the early 1920s. Near statehood in 1959, the first State Legislature adopted many of Hawaii’s symbols as part of the Hawaii Revised Statutes; however, it wasn’t until 1988 that the yellow Hibiscus, native to the Hawaiian Islands, was elected as the State flower of Hawaii. For this reason, you’ll see older photos with the red Hibiscus, or any other color for that matter, as the state flower.
The Hibiscus, found from Honolulu to Waikiki, is an ornamental flowering plant most commonly found in warm climates, especially tropical and subtropical regions. It’s a popular landscaping shrub among gardeners, and used in many cultures for various purposes including herbal tea, hair products, and even paper making! The brazen flower of the Hibiscus is synonymous with “delicate beauty” making it a popular gift throughout the world.
There is one point of contention with this beautiful state flower. Many locals argue that different flowers, (and colors) are used to represent different islands. So a Paradise Park local may differ about the State flower with a Waimea local. Many islands wish they were their own states, so they made up a few rules of their own in the 1950’s.
Idaho – Syringa
Illinois – Violet
Photo Courtesy: atb.grolier.com
In 1907, at the suggestion of Mrs. James C. Fessler of Rochelle, who had launched a statewide campaign to adopt a state flower, the choice of a state flower was put to a vote of Illinois schoolchildren. State officials watched closely as over 33,500 votes were cast for three flowers; the goldenrod, the wild rose and the violet. The violet won the contest by accumulating almost 4,000 more votes than the second-place wild rose.
As a result of the contest, Senator Andrew J. Jackson of Rockford sponsored a bill in the Illinois Legislature to make the violet the official flower of the state. On January 21, 1908 the native violet was approved as the official state flower of the State of Illinois.
Indiana – Peony
Photo Courtesy: easytogrowbulbs.com
Known for its magnificent, showy flowers, colorful foliage and the ability to bloom year after year, the Peony has been an American favorite since its arrival from Europe in the 1800s. In Indiana, descendants of some of the state’s earliest Peonies still grow today.
A perennial, the Peony bush reaches about 18 inches tall, with some plants growing to be several feet high. Peonies are relatively easy to care for, and their success derives from the plant’s ability to withstand seasonal temperatures and cold winters. In fact, the Peony is such a hardy plant that it will faithfully bloom for as long as 50 years if undisturbed.
Peonies thrive in Indiana’s climate, producing flowers from Fort Wayne to the capital city of Indianapolis. Spectacular, round blooms open up in May in a delightful assortment of colors. In addition to its beautiful color, the Indiana state flower gives off a strong, pleasant fragrance, especially when grown in abundance.
When state lawmakers picked the Peony as the Indiana state flower, they failed to pick a specific color, giving Hoosiers plenty of Peonies to call their own.
Iowa – Wild Rose
(Rosa Arkansana) (Rosa Blanda) (Rosa Carolina)
Photo Courtesy: morningskygreenery.com, savannasprings.com, and georgiavines.com
The Wild Rose of Iowa represented resilience and beauty to early European settlers. Despite the state’s dry, flat landscape, the flower bloomed every year in the early summer. Lawmakers felt that the hardy flower symbolized the state so well that they had its picture etched on a silver tea service that was presented to the crew of the U.S.S. Iowa in 1896. The wild rose became the official Iowa state flower in 1897.
Lawmakers choose not to single out a specific species of the rose as the state flower. Instead, they agreed to make any Wild Rose within the state’s boundaries the Iowa state flower.
Several Wild Rose species are native to Iowa and telling them apart is often quite challenging. These Wild Rose species have similar appearances and also have the natural ability to hybridize in the wild. In particular, three species are frequently identified as the Iowa state flower. These three species include the Rosa Arkansana, the Rosa Blanda and the Rosa Carolina.
The Rosa Arkansana grows only in the western quarter of the state. The plant can grow up to three feet tall and blooms with numerous pink to dark pink flowers in June.
The Rosa Blanda is found in the state’s prairies and open woodlands in the northern half of Iowa. It reaches heights of up to four feet and in each year during the month of June, it bursts with showy pink flowers that last throughout the summer.
The Rosa Carolina blooms in the meadows and in the woodlands throughout the state. The Rosa Carolina can also be seen throughout the state’s most populated cities of Cedar Falls, Davenport and Des Moines. Even though the Iowa state flower does well in the wild, it is also found in home gardens as an ornamental bush.
Long before Iowans came to appreciate the Wild Rose, Native Americans valued it for its medicinal and nutritional value. They boiled the “fruit’ of the roses, called rose hips, to make eye drops to treat eye infections. They also produced syrup from rose hips to treat stomach ailments and ate the hips, leaves and flowers of the wild rose when food became scarce.
Kansas – Native Sunflower
Photo Courtesy: statesymbolsusa.org
Kansas recognized the sunflower as official state flower and floral emblem in 1903 (the sunflower is also featured on the Kansas state quarter, state flag, and the nickname for Kansas is The Sunflower State.
Excerpt from Kansas legislation:
WHEREAS, Kansas has a native wild flower common throughout her borders, hardy and conspicuous, of definite, unvarying and striking shape, easily sketched, moulded, and carved, having armorial capacities, ideally adapted for artistic reproduction, with its strong, distinct disk and its golden circle of clear glowing rays — a flower that a child can draw on a slate, a woman can work in silk, or a man can carve on stone or fashion in clay; and
WHEREAS, This flower has to all Kansans a historic symbolism which speaks of frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies, and is full of the life and glory of the past, the pride of the present, and richly emblematic of the majesty of a golden future, and is a flower which has given Kansas the world-wide name, “the sunflower state”…
Be it enacted … that the helianthus or wild native sunflower is … designated … the state flower and floral emblem of the state of Kansas.
American Indians were using native sunflowers for food over 3,000 years ago. These wild sunflower seeds were only about 5 mm. long. Over hundreds of years and careful husbandry (selecting only the largest seeds for cultivation), the plains Indians began the development of today’s large modern sunflower, rich with oil.
Sunflower heads consist of 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined together by a receptacle base. The large petals around the edge of a head are actually individual ray flowers, which do not develop into seed.
There are more than 60 species of sunflowers. The Native Sunflower grows to 15 feet tall with flower heads up to 2 feet in diameter, and can produce over 1,000 seeds from one plant. The flower head turns and faces the sun throughout the day – tracking the sun’s movement. Sunflower seeds are rich in protein and yield a high-quality vegetable oil.
Kentucky – Goldenrod Gigantea
Photo Courtesy: statesymbolsusa.org
When most people think of Kentucky’s flora, Kentucky Bluegrass often springs to mind. In fact, Bluegrass is so entwined with the state’s identity that it was once selected as the Kentucky state flower despite the fact that it is actually a grass.
Today, the Kentucky state flower is the Goldenrod. Lawmakers chose the leggy yellow plant to replace Bluegrass in 1926 after gardening clubs complained that Bluegrass represented only one region of the geographically diverse state. Apparently they were less bothered about its status as a grass!
The tall and spindly plant thrives in many conditions and soil types. Kentucky’s state flower has green foliage and prominent yellow flowers that blossom most actively in the summer time. Yellow fields of Goldenrod appear across Kentucky the flowers bloom in late summer and early fall.
While many species of the plant are celebrated, state lawmakers singled out the Solidago Gigantea species as the Kentucky state flower. The species grows to up to eight feet tall, twice the height of other Goldenrods!
Goldenrods earned their name from their inflorescence, or upper stem, along which bright, small flowers grow in clusters. The flower’s rays attract butterflies and bees, which pollinate the plant and feed on its nectar.
Residents of the Bluegrass state have a long history of appreciating the Kentucky state flower. The flower appears on the state flag encircling the Kentucky state seal. Well before that, Native Americans valued the plant as a medicinal herb. Teas prepared from parts of the Goldenrod were used to reduce fevers, as well as treat bladder and kidney problems, among other things.
Louisiana – Magnolia
Photo Courtesy: photobucket.com
In 1900, House Bill No. 280 was introduced to the Louisiana General Assembly proposing that the blossom of the magnolia be adopted as the state’s official state flower.
From George Earlie Shankle, we have the following
“Louisiana by legislative action, approved July 12, 1900, designated the magnolia [Magnolia foetida or Magnolia grandiflora] as the State flower. It was chosen probably because there is such an abundant growth of this tree throughout the State.”
The flower of the magnolia tree was approved by the Louisiana General Assembly as the state flower of Louisiana on July 12, 1900. Though Act No. 156 of the Louisiana Legislature did not specify a variety of magnolia, Shankle identifies the intended species.
In 1941, the Mary Swords DeBaillon Louisiana Native Iris Society was formed by a group of Louisiana iris enthusiasts. In 1948, the group changed its name to the Society for Louisiana Irises. The Society, its membership having grown to about 185 members, proposed legislation in 1950 to replace the magnolia blossom with the Louisiana iris. In an effort to appease the magnolia supporters, legislation was also proposed to make the magnolia the official state tree.
The debate between the iris lovers and the magnolia supporters sometimes grew heated. The iris was referred to as a plant that grows in swamps and one magnolia supporter offered, “Lots of people already think that everyone in Louisiana lives in houses on stilts in swamplands and keeps an alligator as a watchdog.” Iris supporters contended that the Louisiana iris can be grown everywhere and that the magnolia, grown throughout the south, is not unique to Louisiana.
The iris lovers were not to prevail however and the beautiful magnolia blossom remains Louisiana’s state flower to this day. So it’s been for over 100 years.
It should be noted that the Louisiana iris was adopted as the state’s wildflower in 1990.
The Louisiana state flower grows on the Magnolia tree, a perennial that can tower between 60-80 feet high and span 30-50 feet across. The hardwoods grow abundantly throughout the state and also flourish across the southeastern United States. Magnolias are both the state flower and state tree of Mississippi.
The Louisiana state flower is both showy and elegant. Their blossoms are made up of enormous waxy petals that provide a stark contrast to the tree’s shiny green foliage. Magnolia flowers range in color from cream to pink. They also give off a strong sweet perfume that many commercial businesses attempt to replicate in their products. In Louisiana, Magnolias begin to form flower buds in late March and early April. By mid April the flowers are in full bloom.
The Magnolia bloom is relatively short lived. In fact, it may only be pristine for several days. By autumn, Louisiana’s state flower has dried up and its petals have fallen. In its place forms an attractive red seed pod that is enjoyed by squirrels, rabbits, birds and even wild turkeys.
Magnolias trees have a history that far precedes their selection as the Louisiana state flower. Fossilized specimens of flowers from the Magnolia family date back 95 million years. The bark from one species of Magnolia has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since 1083 to fight dementia, heart disease and cancer.
Sources: netstate.com and proflowers.com
Maine – White Pine Cone and Tassel
Photo Courtesy: thespruce.com
Maine designated the white pine cone and tassel (Pinus strobus, linnaeus) as the official state floral emblem in 1895. The white pine (also the state tree of Maine) is considered the largest conifer in the northeastern United States. Maine’s nickname is “The Pine Tree State” and the eastern white pine appears on the flag, seal, and Maine quarter.
Selection of a state floral emblem was inspired by the “National Garland of Flowers” at the 1893 World’s Fair, which was made of individual state flowers or floral emblems which were specified by each of the state legislatures (many states selected their official flower symbol as a direct result of this garland).
The resident’s of Maine voted on three candidates: goldenrod; the apple blossom; and the pine cone and tassel. Though the pine cone and tassel is not a flower, the choice is not surprising for the citizens of Maine (considering the role of the white pine in Maine’s history).
The White Pine Cone and Tassel of the Eastern White Pine has green and blue-green needles which are usually two to five inches long and grow in clusters of five sprigs. Botanically, the white pine cone and tassel are not flowers, they are gymnosperm (producing seeds without flowers). The tree’s cones are brown and slender and grow alongside its needles at the end of the pine’s branches. Pine trees have male and female cones; the male pine cones are small and fall off the tree after pollination. The female pine cones grow larger after being pollinated and take months, sometimes years to mature and fall. The lofty evergreens have long dominated the state’s picturesque landscape, from its rocky seacoasts to its thick inland wilderness. Lumber products milled from pine trees have fueled the state’s economy since the 1600s.
Sources: statesymbolsusa.org and proflowers.com
Maryland – Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia
Photo Courtesy: flowersworld13.blogspot.com
Rudbeckia hirta, commonly referred to as the Black-eyed Susan, is the state flower of Maryland. How was this flower chosen as the state symbol? The state government officially adopted the Black-eyed Susan in 1918, but its journey began twenty years earlier at the Maryland Agricultural College.
In 1898, the Farmers’ Institute decided to hold a “Round-Up” from August 24th-26th on the college campus. Farmers from around the state were encouraged to attend, and a special “Woman’s Section” meeting was planned for any female attendees. The meeting was held in “Library Hall,” which was most likely part of the old library/gymnasium building on campus. Several newspaper accounts mention the surprising number of ladies present – more than 100 according to reporter J. Rob Ramsay. One of the topics raised at the meeting was the necessity for a state flower. Ramsay states that a vote by county was taken, and the results were as follows: 42 votes for the Black-eyed Susan, 28 for the goldenrod, and 1 for the daisy.
While this vote indicated the popularity of the Black-eyed Susan, official action was not taken until two decades later. Early in 1918, a disagreement broke out among several state senators over the state flower. Senator Bomberger initiated the argument by introducing a bill to make the Black-eyed Susan the official symbol. He pointed out that the black and yellow flower matched the colors of the Calvert family crest, which were also colors on the state flag. His supporters referenced a popular song that connected the flower to Maryland, and reminded senators of its popularity among Maryland residents.
My pretty black-eyed Susan,
The fairest flower that grows;
You’re sweeter than sweet violets,
The lily or the rose.
My heart to you is ever true,
To do as you command.
My pretty black-eyed Susan,
The flow’r of Maryland.
Delegate Mitchell, an opponent of the Black-eyed Susan, presented the goldenrod as an alternative. He argued that the goldenrod would honor fallen soldiers, while the Black-eyed Susan could be seen to represent “a black eye from the Kaiser” (remember, World War I lasted until November 11, 1918). Mitchell’s arguments could not compete against the overwhelming popularity of the Black-eyed Susan, and the legislature passed the bill in the spring. Governor Harrington approved the bill on April 18, 1918. Thanks to the support of groups like the women at the Farmers’ Institute Round-Up in 1898, the Black-eyed Susan became the Maryland state flower.
Massachusetts – Mayflower
Photo Courtesy: statesymbolsusa.org
Perhaps named by the Pilgrims, the mayflower was suggested as the Massachusetts floral emblem as early as 1893 when the Women’s Congress at the Chicago World’s Fair (The World’s Columbian Exposition) began promoting the idea of a “National Garland of Flowers.”
Two bills proposing the mayflower as the Massachusetts’ floral emblem were introduced, one in 1900 and a second in 1901. Both failed to gain legislative approval. A bill to name mountain laurel the state’s floral emblem was introduced in 1905. It too was defeated.
A third bill in support of the mayflower, introduced by Representative Miles A. O’Brien, Jr. was the charm. Unfortunately a competing bill, proposing the water lily as the floral emblem, was also introduced. The General Court decided to pass the issue on to the Department of Agriculture who, in turn, passed the issue on to the State Board of Education. It was determined that a statewide vote of school children would determine the state’s floral emblem.
Put to the children of Massachusetts, the mayflower received more than twice as many votes as the water lily.
Mayflower – 107,617 votes
Water lily – 49, 499 votes
The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on May 1, 1918, adopted the mayflower (Epigaea repens) also commonly known as trailing arbutus or ground laurel, as the flower or floral emblem of the Commonwealth.
On May 17, 1925, Section 7 was amended to protect the endangered mayflower.
Section 7 explains that anyone who harms the Mayflower in anyway (pulls, digs up the plant, or injures) on any state highway, public property, or on anyone’s land without written authority will be fined 50$. Anyone who harms the mayflower while being sneaky about it (in disguise or at nighttime) will be fined 100$. This will be enforced by department of fisheries, wildlife, and environmental law enforcement.
The General Laws of Massachusetts
The following information is excerpted from the General Laws of Massachusetts, Part 1, Title 1, Chapter 2, Section 7.
PART I. ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT.
TITLE I. JURISDICTION AND EMBLEMS OF THE COMMONWEALTH, THE GENERAL COURT, STATUTES AND PUBLIC DOCUMENTS.
CHAPTER 2. ARMS, GREAT SEAL AND OTHER EMBLEMS OF THE COMMONWEALTH.
Chapter 2: Section 7 Flower or floral emblem of commonwealth; protection; penalty
Section 7. The mayflower (epigaea repens) shall be the flower or floral emblem of the commonwealth. Any person who pulls up or digs up the plant of the mayflower or any part thereof, or injures such plant or any part thereof except in so far as is reasonably necessary in procuring the flower therefrom, within the limits of any state highway or any other public way or place, or upon the land of another person without written authority from him, shall be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars; but if a person does any of the aforesaid acts while in disguise or secretly in the nighttime he shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars. The provisions of this section shall be enforced by all officers in the division of law enforcement in the department of fisheries, wildlife and environmental law enforcement.
Michigan – Apple Blossom
Photo Courtesy: redbubble.com
William Harris of Norwood introduced the legislation proposing that the apple blossom be adopted as the official state flower of Michigan on February 9, 1897. The choice is fitting given the state’s long ties to the fruit. Michigan ranks third in the country in apple production, just behind Washington and New York. While Michigan’s orchards produce many varieties of apples, lawmakers singled out the flower of the Pyrus coronaria (sweet crabapple) as particularly beautiful and fragrant, the legislation does not specify this species as the state flower but refers to the generic apple blossom as the state flower of Michigan. Michigan adopted the blossom of the apple tree as its state flower by an act of the legislature on April 28, 1897.
Each April and May, crabapple trees burst out in delicate white and pink blossoms. The clustered flowers not only add color to otherwise green apple orchards, but also give off a valuable honeysuckle scent. The sweet fragrance attracts bees to orchards where they do the important job of pollinating. Apple growers often plant crabapple trees amongst their other apple varieties just for this purpose. After Apple Blossoms are pollinated, fruits begin to grow. The crabapple tree’s fruit reaches their maturity by late summer. The fruit of the pyrus coronaria is largely ornamental or used only in preservatives and jellies.
Apple orchards flourish off the shores of Lake Michigan where they benefit from the lake-influenced weather. Near Grand Rapids, flowers from the apple tree signal the arrival of the annual Blossomtime Festival. The event marks the arrival of Apple Blossoms as well as the harvest of the region’s grapes, melons, peaches, tomatoes and tart cherries.
Sources: proflowers.com and netstate.com
Minnesota – Lady Slipper
Photo Courtesy: haikudeck.com
The pink and white lady slipper (Cypripedium reginae) was designated the official state flower of Minnesota in 1967. Lady slippers (also called moccasin flower) can live up to 50 years but develop slowly, taking up to 16 years to produce their first flower. Since 1925 this rare wildflower has been protected by Minnesota state law (it is illegal to pick the flowers or to uproot or unearth the plants). It is listed as threatened and endangered by many states.
Quote from Minnesota Legislative Reference Library:
“The Lady Slipper was considered the state flower long before it was officially passed into law. In 1893 a petition from the Women’s Auxiliary to the World’s Fair was presented to the Senate, asking that the Wild Lady Slipper (Cyprideum calceolous) be designated the state flower. The Senate adopted the resolution on February 4, 1893 … but there is no evidence that the House adopted it. Also, the variety that was designated was not from Minnesota.
In 1902 women of the St. Anthony Study Circle brought this to the attention of the Legislature. The Senate passed a new resolution on February 18, 1902, naming the pink and white lady slipper (Cypripedium reginae), also known as the showy lady slipper, as Minnesota’s state flower (Senate Journal entries). The House concurred (House Journal entry) … the designation as official state symbol was written into law in 1967.”
Mississippi – Magnolia
Photo Courtesy: vbelleblog.com
No doubt about it, Mississippians have long admired the creamy white blossom and the evergreen tree upon which it grows. An election was held in November 1900 to select a State Flower. Votes were submitted by 23,278 school children. The magnolia won by a landslide, it received 12,745 votes; the cotton blossom 4,171; and the cape jasmine 2,484. There were a few votes for other native flowers. However slow to act, the state’s legislature didn’t name the Magnolia the state flower of Mississippi until 1952.
For generations, Mississippians have sought shade beneath Magnolia trees on antebellum plantations, enjoying the unmistakable, sweet scent of Magnolia flowers wafting through the air. Even today, the trees can be found on preserved and restored plantations, such as Biloxi where magnolias dot the grounds of Beauvoir, the plantation home of confederate president Jefferson Davis.
Magnolia buds appear in late March and early April, by mid-spring their flowers are in full bloom. The Mississippi state flower is at once showy and elegant. Its cup-like blooms range in color from cream to pink and reach impressive sizes, up to 15 inches across. Each flower is made of numerous waxy petals that provide contrast to the tree’s shiny green foliage.
Magnolia flowers produce a strong sweet perfume. Though beautiful and impressive, the life of the Mississippi state flower is a short one. In fact, Magnolia blooms may only be pristine for several days. By autumn, the Magnolia’s flowers have dried up and its petals have fallen. In its place, forms an attractive red seed pod that is enjoyed by squirrels, rabbits, birds and even wild turkeys.
Sources: 50states.com and proflowers.com
Missouri – Hawthorn
Photo Courtesy: statesymbolsusa.org
Missouri designated the white hawthorn blossom as the official state flower in 1923. Hawthorn, a woody plant that can reach 20 feet in height, belongs to the rose family (similar to plants like rose, apple and spirea). The tiny apple-like fruit (pomes) of the hawthorn is collected to make jam and also provides food for birds and small mammals.
The legislation does not name a specific variety of hawthorn, but the Missouri Department of Conservation believes the downy hawthorn (Crataegus mollis) should receive the recognition. Missouri is home to over 75 species of hawthorn, particularly in the Ozarks.
Montana – Bitterroot
Nebraska – Goldenrod
Photo Courtesy: www.inaturalist.org
The Goldenrod of Nebraska has been described as a weed, an herb and a wildflower. The tall wispy plant was designated the official state flower of Nebraska in 1895 to “foster a feeling of pride in our state, and stimulate an interest in the history and traditions of the commonwealth.” It was later said by Ida Brockman (daughter of representative John M. Brockman) that the state flower “… has a long season, and nothing could better represent the hardy endurance of Nebraska’s pioneers.”
This hardy plant flourishes in meadows and pastures as well as on the edges of woodlands, in ditches, along roadsides and in waste areas. Today, while images of pioneers have faded, Nebraskans continue to celebrate their state flower in name, from Goldenrod Park in Bellevue to Goldenrod Lane in Lincoln.
Throughout the state, Goldenrod plants grow in field-like clumps, reaching heights between 2-3 feet tall. The flowers get their name from their inflorescence, or upper stems, where bright, small flowers grow in clusters. The flower’s rays attract butterflies and bees, which pollinate the plant and feed on its nectar. Goldenrod flowers appear at the end of summer, making the Nebraska state flower one of the last flower “shows” of the year.
Early Native Americans used the plant’s late bloom to their advantage. The Omaha tribesmen spent summers hunting buffalo; the sight of Goldenrod blooms let them know that the corn they had planted back home was beginning to ripen. They made a tea out of it to treat heart conditions, a painkiller to treat bee stings, as well as an ointment to treat muscle pains. Some species of Goldenrod were even chewed to relieve toothaches.
Sources: proflowers.com, statesymbolsusa.org
Nevada – Sagebrush
Photo Courtesy: handlensandbinoculars.blogspot.com
The sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata or Artemisia trifida) was initially adopted as the state emblem by the Senate on March 20, 1917. By an act of the Nevada Legislature, the sagebrush was later adopted as the official state emblem by statutory law in 1959. Finally, in 1967, the sagebrush was adopted “as the official state flower of the the State of Nevada.“
Sagebrush flowers bring welcome color to the region from late summer into the fall, especially the central basin of Nevada. It’s an important source of winter food for sheep and cattle, because it keeps its leaves all year round. Native tribes used its aromatic leaves as medicine and wove its bark into mats.
Growing in areas where other plants cannot, the Nevada state flower can go as tall as 12 feet high, with its silvery gray to brown bark crowded with gray leaves and flowers in muted yellow. It can even be found within the city limits of Las Vegas , Reno and Carson City, where it will grow to its more common height of 3 to 6 feet tall.
Sagebush is so abundant in some areas of Nevada that it actually slowed down the famous cattle drives of the Old West as herds had to pick their way through the densely growing brush. Also, it’s largely responsible for the adoption of chaps as daily working wear by cowboys to protect their legs as they also picked their way through.
Do not get Sagebrush confused with the common sage you’ll find on your spice shelf. While the Nevada state flower has a strong fragrance, its taste is actually bitter and unpleasant.
Sources: netstate.com, proflowers.com,
New Hampshire – Purple Lilac
Photo Courtesy: history.com
Purple Lilac was discovered by historian Leon Anderson, who noted that it was first imported from England, and then planted at the Portsmouth home of Governor Benning Wentworth in 1750. (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew lilacs in their gardens as well.) That year, amendments were introduced promoting the Apple Blossom, Purple Aster, Wood Lily, Mayflower, Goldenrod, Wild Pasture Rose, Evening Primrose and Buttercup for serious consideration of New Hampshire’s state flower. The Purple Lilac was ultimately chosen because its hardiness was reflective of the men and women of the Granite State and became the state flower in 1919.
The Purple Lilac is robust and sturdy. It’s native to New Hampshire, growing in moist, soggy wooded areas of the state and in acidic soils of pine-oak forests. A lilac bush can live for hundreds of years. Purple Lilac is cherished not only by residents, but gardeners all over the world for its incomparable splendor and charming fragrance. This state flower also boasts one of the most powerful and commonly used fragrances emitted by a plant.
Purple Lilacs produce new shoots that grow from the base or roots of the shrub. Lilacs can withstand severely cold winter temperatures (even -35 degrees C); in fact, the species does not grow well at all in areas without significant frost in the wintertime.
Sources: proflowers.com, statesymbolsusa.org
New Jersey – Common Meadow Violet
Photo Courtesy: proflowers.com
The New Jersey State Legislature in 1971 voted to name the Common Meadow Violet as the New Jersey state flower.
The Common Meadow Violet is deemed the most common of more than 400 species of violets. The perennial is commonly found growing in damp woods, roadsides and preserves. From March to June, the New Jersey state flower produces small blooms on separate, slender stalks.
The Common Meadow Violet has a relatively unique characteristic: after its showy flowers have bloomed, the plant produces a second set of blossoms. These small, closed flowers look like small buds and produce most of the Violet’s seeds.
Common Meadow Violets range in color from white to blue to purple. Its range in New Jersey extends from Paterson in the north of the state, to Atlantic City in the south. The Violet also flowers in Newark and Jersey City, where it sometimes shows up as a weed in suburban lawns.
The New Jersey state flower is not only attractive; it can also be eaten. Cooks and bakers use the Violet’s petals to adorn cakes and as ingredients in jellies and candies. Others sprinkle the Violet’s flowers into salads as a natural source of vitamins A and C.
New Mexico – Yucca
Photo Courtesy: proflowers.com
The yucca flower was adopted on March 14, 1927 on being selected by New Mexico schoolchildren and was recommended by the New Mexico Federation of Women’s Clubs. The are between 40-50 Yucca plants but no specific Yucca was selected.
Under the desert’s bright moonlight, visitors can see why New Mexico’s state flower is sometimes called “lamparas de dios” or “lamps of the Lord.” Their bright, upwardly reaching flowers seem to point heavenward and illuminate the nighttime desert.
Uses of the Yucca plant are well known, particularly to Native Americans. Early southwesterners chewed and stretched the Yucca’s leaves so they could use them to weave baskets and shoes. The leaves were also used to make protective coverings that were placed over shelters and houses. Native Americans also grounded the roots of the Soap Tree Yucca to form a gentle soap.
The relationship between New Mexico’s state flower and the yucca moth is a highly unusual and symbiotic one. Each species of Yucca plant is pollinated by a different species of yucca moth uniquely suited to collect pollen from its Yucca plant. The moths roll the pollen into a ball and drop it into the stigma of a different Yucca plant of the same species. At the same time, the moth lays an egg in the flower. There, it grows and emerges, while being protected, feeding itself by eating some of the Yucca’s developing seeds.
Sources: netstate.com, statesymbolsusa.org, and proflowers.com
New York – Rose
Photo Courtesy: www.amazon.com
Though it’s not defined in the 1995 legislation, the rose often associated with the official flower designation is the tea rose.
As long ago as 1890, the rose was working its way into the hearts of New York schoolchildren when they voted for their preference for state flower on Arbor Day of that year. This vote was held under the auspices of the State Department of Public Instruction, today’s New York State Education Department. First place went to the goldenrod, second place to the rose and third place to the daisy.
Goldenrod – 81,308 votes.
Rose – 79,666 votes.
Daisy – 33,603 votes.
Violet – 31,170 votes.
Pansy – 21,202 votes.
Lily – 16,438 votes.
Lily of the Valley – 11,626 votes.
Trailing arbutus – 7,888 votes.
Buttercup – 6,127 votes.
121 other varieties – 21,045 votes.
According to Superintendent Draper, a total of 318,079 votes were cast, though many districts failed to keep a record of the vote.
Superintendent Draper thought that the vote did not offer a clear winner and so called for a second vote to be taken in the public schools on Arbor Day, 1891. This time, he proclaimed that the vote would be limited to the two flowers with the greatest number of votes in 1890.
On Arbor Day, 1891, the second poll was held. 501,208 votes were cast; over 200,000 more than in the previous year. This time, the rose came out on top.
Rose – 294,816 votes.
Goldenrod – 206,402 votes.
Voters who favored the goldenrod, did so because they considered it a distinctly American flower. Those who opposed goldenrod thought it nothing more than a weed.
New York did not take official action regarding a state flower until 1955 however when, on April 20, the rose was adopted as “the official flower of the state in any color or combination of colors common to it.“
North Carolina – American Dogwood
Photo Courtesy: proflowers.com
Legislators noted the Dogwood’s ubiquitous presence throughout the state when they designated it as the North Carolina state flower in 1941. The Dogwood can be found as far west as the mountains, throughout the middle Piedmont region of the state and all the way to the Atlantic coast.In the residential suburbs of Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, flowers from the Dogwood have graced sumptuous gardens for decades.
North Carolina state flower isn’t just spectacular for a few weeks of the year, it’s gorgeous all year long! The Flowering Dogwood blooms in springtime, turning hills and mountainsides across the state a snowy white, light pink or red. The delightful show continues into summer. As its showy flowers drop, the tree’s dark green foliage stands out. In autumn, the Dogwood is a dazzling display of orange, red, and scarlet leaves with clusters of dangling red berries. Each winter, button-shaped buds emerge from the tree’s twigs, creating a beautiful wintertime silhouette.
North Carolina’s state flower is not really a flower but a small tree on which flowers grow. At maturity, the Flowering Dogwood reaches heights between 30-40 feet. Its trunk is covered with small, block-like bark. According to some stories, a wash made with the bark of the English Dogwood cured dogs with mange, offering a possible explanation for the tree’s name.
Interestingly, this “flower” most associated with the North Carolina state flower is not a flower at all! It is an attractive, notched bracts designed to lure pollinators toward the tree’s true flowers. These small, yellow blooms are located in a tight cluster at the center of the bracts. After a flower is pollinated, its bracts droop and fall and fertilized ovaries form a cluster of small fruits. In autumn, the red fruit of the Dogwood is a favorite for birds which distribute the Dogwood’s seeds.
North Dakota – Wild Prairie Rose
Photo Courtesy: statesymbolsusa.org
The first graduating class of the University of North Dakota chose the colors of the wild rose as their school’s official colors in 1889 noting that the colors were “suggestive of our green prairies and rosy prospects.”
The wild prairie rose received support from the North Dakota Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1898 and was preferred by a vote of North Dakota schoolchildren as well. As a result a Senator Louis B. Hanna sponsored a bill to name the wild prairie rose the official floral emblem of the state. Mr. Hanna would move on to become a U.S. Congressman and Governor of the State of North Dakota (1913-1917).
The wild prairie rose was approved by the tenth session of the Legislative Assembly of North Dakota on March 7, 1907. According to Shankle:
North Dakota, by an act of her legislature approved on March 7, 1907, adopted as her State floral emblem, the wild prairie rose (Rosa blanda or Rosa arkansana). “Contributing something to the choice was the fact that the State University of North Dakota had selected the colors, pink and green, chosen directly from the wild prairie rose growing on the campus.”
Ohio – Red Carnation
Photo Courtesy: freeflowerpictures.net
Ohio’s adopted state flower, the scarlet carnation, was approved to memorialize William McKinley. Born in Niles, Ohio in 1843, William McKinley served Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years and went on to become President of the United States.
The story goes that, during an early campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, McKinley’s opponent gave him a red carnation to wear in his buttonhole. Because he won the election, McKinley considered the red carnation a lucky charm and wore it throughout later campaigns. He was wearing a carnation when he was elected President on November 3, 1896. He also said that the flower represented love, respect and reverence.
Widely popular flowers in the Buckeye State, the brightly colored Carnation can be seen lining state highways, roadways, airport, lawns, gardens, and more from Cleveland to Canton to Cincinnati. Of course, the flowers are also spread like a gorgeous red cushion-like blanket across the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, whose official colors are red and gray. In fact, in Carnation City, Ohio has an annual Carnation Festival to celebrate the state flower! Every year, people from all over the state gather to play games, hear historic tales, and eat and drink in honor of this Scarlet beauty.
The Red Carnation is also the most popular flower sold in Ohio. In October and April, the respective State Homecoming and Prom seasons, hundreds of thousands of high school students use the State Flower in corsages and boutonnieres!
Sources: netstate.com and proflowers.com
Oklahoma – Hybrid Tea Rose “Oklahoma Rose”
Photo Courtesy: centredejardinbrossard.com
When it comes to state flora, one must be careful to differentiate in Oklahoma. The Sooner State is represented, in one way or another, by three official flowers: Official floral emblem – Mistletoe, Official state wild flower – Indian Blanket, Official state flower – Hybrid Tea Rose, “Oklahoma”
Mistletoe was adopted as the official floral emblem in 1893, while Oklahoma was still a territory. It was adopted by the State of Oklahoma in 1910.
Oklahoma also adopted the official state wild flower, the Indian blanket, in 1986.
It wasn’t until 2004 that the “Oklahoma rose” joined the list.
The Oklahoma rose is a hybrid tea rose [Rosa odorata (Andr.) Sweet] developed in 1964 by Herbert C. Swim and O.L. Weeks at Oklahoma State University.
Senator Gilmer Capps of Oklahoma City, introduced Senate Bill No. 7, proposing the Oklahoma rose as the official flower of the State of Oklahoma, to the 1st Session of the 49th Legislature on February 3, 2003. His bill proposed amending Section 25-92 of the Oklahoma Statutes defining mistletoe as the floral emblem of Oklahoma, adds text that also names the Oklahoma rose as the official flower.
Though some legislators were concerned that the rose is not native to Oklahoma, this objection didn’t seem to slow the movement toward approval. Garden clubs across the state were filing opinions in support of the Oklahoma Rose.
Meeting of the Government Operations Committee on March 24, 2004:
“…Dottie Weissenberger of Oklahoma City, representing 2,000 members in 180 garden clubs across the state, addressed the committee in behalf of the beautiful, hybrid flower. She recalled that the Oklahoma Rose was first planted at the State Capitol 40 years ago and has flourished over the intervening years, even in the face of hardships.”
The following is the text of the approved Senate Bill No. 7. Changes made to Section 25-92 of the Oklahoma Statutes are underlined. Governor Brad Henry signed this legislation on April 13, 2004 making the Oklahoma rose the official flower of the State of Oklahoma.
Oregon – Oregon Grape (Mahonia Aquifolium)
Photo Courtesy: Creative Commons
Oregon designated the Oregon grape blossom as the official state flower in 1899. Also called holly-leaved barberry, the Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is a shrub native to much of the Pacific coast and and is also found sparsely east of the Cascades. Its year-round foliage of pinnated, waxy green leaves resembles holly and resists wilting.
Well before the state’s horticultural society and legislature tapped it as the Oregon state flower in the 1890s, Oregon Grape was already valued by Native Americans who used its berries and roots as medicinal herbs. The Oregon grape plant bears dainty yellow flowers in early summer and a dark blue berry that ripens late in the fall. The fruit is tart and bitter, containing large seeds. Today, some herbalists believe that drinking tea made by steeping the plant’s root can relieve a variety of ailments. Oregon Grape berries are also used in cooking. Though bitter when raw, the berries become sweet when cooked. The stewed fruit is frequently combined with the berry of another native Oregonian plant, the Salal, to produce a grape-like jelly. The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon grape can be used to make a yellow dye.
Similar to a shrub, Oregon Grape reaches a typical height of three to four feet. The plant’s spiny leaves are waxy and green and bear a resemblance to the holly plant. In early summer, Oregon Grape blossoms into small, orb-shaped flowers that are yellow and green in color.
The Oregon state flower is found mostly in the Pacific Northwest, where it thrives in mountainous regions and alongside rivers and streams. Visitors to Salem and Eugene might detect its spicy scent along the Willamette River. The flower is also found along the Columbia River, which flows through Portland. In fact, it was in this region that Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis & Clark Expedition) made an early documentation of the plant, referring to it in his journals as “mountain holly.”
Sources: statesymbolsusa.org and proflowers.com
Pennsylvania – Mountain Laurel (Kalmia Latifolia)
Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia
Each spring and summer, the woods of Pennsylvania bask in the glow of countless pink Mountain Laurel blossoms. The glorious evergreen plant is the Pennsylvania state flower for good reason: it’s everywhere! By mid-June, sunny mountainsides from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh are covered with Mountain Laurel flowers.
The Pennsylvania state flower is actually an evergreen shrub and is a member of the heath family (Ericaceae). This family of plants contains many of our most common and best-known shrubs including huckleberries, blueberries, azaleas, cranberries and rhododendron. Mountain laurel is also called ivybush, calico bush, sheep laurel, lambkill, clamoun, and spoonwood (native Americans used to make spoons from the wood). It grows in openings of spruce-fir forests and generally reaches between 6-10 feet tall. Mountain Laurel does particularly well in the Appalachian Mountains and can be found in much of the eastern United States. It is commonly found growing on rocky hilltops. Its leaves are lance-shaped, glossy and dark green in color, three to four inches long, and are leather like in texture. They resemble the leaves of the rhododendron but generally are smaller in size. It is one of a few broad leaved plants native to Pennsylvania whose leaves are evergreen and do not fall to the ground during the winter months.
Despite its popularity, the Mountain Laurel wasn’t originally a shoo-in as the Pennsylvania state flower. When the issue was discussed in the 1930s, the Pennsylvania General Assembly was so in doubt about which flower should represent the state that it sent the Governor bills naming two different flowers as Pennsylvania’s favorite: the Mountain Laurel and the Pink Azalea. In the end, then Gov. Gifford Pinchot (and, according to some accounts, his wife) ultimately chose the Mountain Laurel and signed the bill into law on May 5, 1933. Today, there’s no doubt Pennsylvanians everywhere are glad he did.
Sources: statesymbolsusa.org, proflowers.com, and dcnr.state.pa.us
Rhode Island – Violet (Viola Sororia)
Photo Courtesy: Wood violet; photo by Maia C on Flickr
The violet was designated the official Rhode Island State Flower in 1968. Rhode Island was the first of four states to choose the violet, but the last to formally do so. Rhode Island school children voted for the common blue violet over ten other candidates in 1897. Highlighting its status as the chosen state flower, in 1898 Commissioner Stockwell included the violet in an Arbor Day program for the Rhode Island public schools. However, the floral emblem wouldn’t be officially adopted by the state for another 71 years. During that time span, three other states–Illinois, Wisconsin, and New Jersey–adopted the violet as their official symbol. In 1967, teacher and politician Francis Sherman decided that since every other state in the union had adopted an official state flower or floral emblem, it was about time Rhode Island do the same. He introduced a bill to make the violet (Viola palmata) the official flower of the state. On March 13, 2001, Senator V. Susan Sosnowski presented Senate Bill No. 0859 updating the state flower’s Latin name from Viola palmata to Viola sororia. This bill was approved by the General Assembly in July 2001 and signed into law by Governor Lincoln Almond on July 31, 2001.
The common blue violet is found primarily in the northern part of the “Ocean State.” Violets are easy to grow in gardens and also thrive in the wild. Outside city limits, the popular perennial is typically found in meadows, woods, and preserves.
From April to June, the Rhode Island state flower blossoms with small multi-petaled flowers. Its blooms are snowy white or a rich, blue-purple color and grow on separate stems from their broad, heart-shaped leaves. After these showy flowers are done blooming, the Common Blue Violet produces a second set of blossoms. These small, closed flowers look like small buds and produce most of the Violet’s seeds.
The Common Blue Violet is not only found in the garden, but it is also used in the kitchen. Violet petals are used to decorate cakes and as well as to flavor jellies and candies. The plant also provides a natural source of vitamins A and C.
Sources: netstate.com, proflowers.com, and usa-facts-for-kids.com
South Carolina – Yellow Jessamine
Photo Courtesy: Carolina yellow jessamine flowers; photo by Images by John ‘K’ on Flickr
To many South Carolinians, the sweet fragrance of the Yellow Jessamine signals the welcome return of spring. Each year after the cold of winter dissipates; yellow flowers emerge on the climbing vine of the South Carolina state flower. Though attractive in their own right, these trumpet-shaped blooms are better known for their sweet and dreamy perfume.
Yellow Jessamine was designated the official state flower of South Carolina in 1924. Selected not only for the flower’s beauty and sweet fragrance, but because Carolina jessaamine is found throughout South Carolina and “its delicate flower suggests the pureness of gold; its perpetual return out of the dead winter suggests the lesson of constancy in, loyalty to, and patriotism in the service of the State” (quote from South Carolina legislature).
The Yellow Jessamine snakes along the land as a ground cover. While the Yellow Jessamine puts on a good show in gardens and yards, its floral “shows” in the wild are equally outstanding. The vine climbs up tree trunks, winds around branches then hangs down like a blanket covering a tree.
Be careful though! Despite its sweet name and delicate perfume, the South Carolina state flower is poisonous. Deer and other wildlife avoid it and bees that drink its nectar have killed off entire hives. Children who mistake the Jessamine’s nectar for Honeysuckle have also become ill from it.
Sources: statesymbolsusa.org and proflowers.com
South Dakota – Pasque
Photo Courtesy: http://atoztheusa.blogspot.com/2013/03/south-dakota-state-flower.html
The Pasque flower in South Dakota dates back before Europeans settled in the area. Being the first flower to show itself in the spring it it won a place in the hearts of early settlers, and became the subject of Plains Indian songs and legends. Its spring wake-up call made it a natural choice for the floral emblem of South Dakota. The Pasque, along with the motto “I lead,” was approved as the official floral emblem of South Dakota on May 5, 1903. South Dakota is the only state to have incorporated a motto with adoption of its floral emblem. “I lead” compliments the flower very well with it being the first blooms of spring. The blooming period of Pasque is from April to May, lasting for two weeks. As soon as it blooms, it signals the start of spring to South Dakotans and lights up the landscape from Mount Vernon to Sioux City.
Pasque is a low perennial, rarely exceeding 6 inches in height, and its furry leaf clusters appear rapidly after winter snow disappears. Large, flashy lavender flowers open soon thereafter consisting of 5-8 petal-like sepals, elongated clusters of white to purple, and a ring of numerous yellow stamens. The petal color ranges from deep violet to white. The long silky hairs that cover the finely divided, lobed leaves give the plant a sparkly silver sheen. These leaves continuously expand after the flowers open. The flowering stalk or stem is densely covered with silky hairs, helping to insulate it.
All parts of the Pasque are poisonous, it grows wild throughout the state, plus is distributed from the northwestern U.S. to northern Alaska. The hardy plant is best adapted to cool, moist climates and rarely succeeds in warm dry areas.
The pasque flower is known by many names. The Lakota name for the flower is “hosi cekpa” meaning “child’s navel.” Others refer to this flower as anemone, wind flower, blue anemone, prairie crocus, blue tulip, wild crocus prairie smoke, sand flower, rock lily, headache plant, Coventry bells and the May Day flower.
Sources: netstate.com & proflowers.com
Tennessee – Iris
Photo Courtesy: Allison Linder
The iris was recognized as the Tennessee State Flower in 1933. The purple iris is generally accepted as the floral emblem of the “Volunteer State,” though the legislature didn’t specify a particular color or species in its official naming. There was just one problem. In 1919 a five-member state commission entrusted school children to vote for an appropriate state flower. Their choice was the purple passion flower.
When garden clubs pressured the legislature to designate the iris in 1933, passion flower fans were quite unhappy. For forty years Tennessee was represented by two state flowers. In 1973 the General Assembly resolved the situation by honoring both flowers. The passion flower was named the state wildflower and the iris became the state cultivated flower.
There are many reasons that gardeners across the state embraced the Iris. The exquisite perennials grow easily here, providing ornamental value and colorful appeal to residents year after year. Iris flowers appear on the Tennessee license plate. They are also the subject of one of the state’s official songs “When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee.” Each spring, residents from Chattanooga to Knoxville gather for the state’s annual Iris Festival which honors the Tennessee state flower with a rodeo, a floral show and coronation of an Iris queen.
The popular Bearded Iris, which grows throughout the state is marked by a fuzzy line, or beard, running down the middle of these petals. Several hundred types of Bearded Irises are on display at the botanical gardens in Memphis. The flowers form the delightful Tennessee Bicentennial Iris Garden.
Sources: proflowers.com & usa-facts-for-kids.com
Texas – Bluebonnet
Photo courtesy: snopes.com
On March 7, 1901, the Twenty-seventh Texas Legislature adopted the bluebonnet, flower of the annual legume Lupinus subcarnosus, as the state flower. The flower’s popular name derives from its resemblance to a sunbonnet. It has also been called buffalo clover, wolf flower, and, in Spanish, el conejo (“the rabbit”). On March 8, 1971, the legislation was amended to include L. texensis and “any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded.” At least four other species of bluebonnet grow in Texas: L. havardii, L. concinnus, L. perennis, and L. plattensis. Contrary to various folk stories and legends claiming that the plant originated outside the state, L. texensis and L. subcarnosus are native to Texas. In 1933 the legislature adopted a state flower song, “Bluebonnets,” written by Julia D. Booth and Lora C. Crockett. Also in the 1930s the Highway Department began a landscaping and beautification program and extended the flower’s range. Due largely to that agency’s efforts, bluebonnets now grow along most major highways throughout the state. The flower usually blooms in late March and early April and is found mostly in limestone outcroppings from north central Texas to Mexico. Its popularity is widespread. Although early explorers failed to mention the bluebonnet in their descriptions of Texas, Indian lore called the flower a gift from the Great Spirit. The bluebonnet continues to be a favorite subject for artists and photographers, and at the peak of bloom, festivals featuring the flower are held in several locations.
Utah – Sego Lily
Photo Courtesy: Tony Frates
Utah designated the Sego Lily (Calochortus nuttalli) as the official state flower on March 18, 1911. Blooming in early summer, the sego lily grows on open grass and sage rangelands in the Great Basin of Utah. It flourishes in hot, dry conditions and sandy soil as well as near stands of ponderosa pine. The sego lily was chosen as the flower symbol of Utah because of its natural beauty and historic significance. Also called mariposa lily, the Sego Lily helped Mormon pioneers throughout Utah survive. Crops were scarce due to a cricket infestation so settlers turned to digging up the bulbs of the Sego Lily in order to survive. Before the Mormons, Native Americans roasted, boiled, or made the Sego Lily into a porridge.
Sources: statesymbolsusa.org, proflowers.com, & netstate.com
Vermont – Red Clover
Photo Courtesy: Proflowers
February 1, 1895 the red clover officially became Vermont’s state flower. English colonists brought the Red Clover to northeastern North America. Populating many of Vermont’s cultivated hay fields and a common sighting along roadsides and highways, the Red Clover is symbolic of Vermont’s scenic countryside and of its massive farms. The plants have hollow, hairy stems and branches both medium and mammoth in size, averaging 18 inches and respectively 24 to 30 inches. Medium types have about four branches per stem; mammoth have six. Each leaf consists of a slender stalk bearing three leaflets. Seed pods are small and short, containing kidney-shaped seeds which vary in color from yellow to deep violet. The cherished Red Clover will always add to the stunning scenery of Vermont’s scenic hills, valleys, mountains and lakes.
Sources: netstate.com & proflowers.com
Virginia – American Dogwood
Photo Courtesy: A to Z the USA
Not very many states can claim their state flower was a favorite of one of America’s founding fathers; but Virginia can! Thomas Jefferson grew American Dogwood on the grounds of his Virginia estate Monticello in the 1770s.
It was this connection to Virginia’s history that state lawmakers were thinking of when they selected the American Dogwood as the Virginia state flower in 1918. Legislators hoped the choice would “stimulate an interest in the history and traditions of the Commonwealth.”
Many refer to the American Dogwood as a flower, but Virginia’s state flower is actually a tree. In fact, Virginia is the only state to have the same state flower the same as their state tree. When the Dogwood blooms in springtime, it is hard to miss. The delightful, showy flowers emerge in white, pink or red.
The Dogwood can reach 30-40 feet high at full growth. Its trunk is covered by a block-like bark that helps to distinguish the Dogwood from other trees when it is not in bloom. These blooms on Dogwood are actually not flowers at all, but bracts that attract pollinators toward the tree’s true flowers. The Dogwood’s true blooms are small, yellow flowers which grow in a cluster at the center of the bracts. When pollinated, the fertilized ovaries at the center of the flowers produce oval green fruit.
While it blooms in springtime, Virginia’s state flower is splendid year round. Flowers from the Dogwood disappear in summer leaving an attractive dark green behind. In fall, the Dogwood’s leaves offer a dazzling display of color in red, orange and scarlet, and its berries are a colorful red. Even in winter, the Dogwood’s buds give the tree an elegant silhouette.
While its attractive nature makes the Dogwood a top choice for Virginia’s gardeners, Virginians honor the tree in other ways too, the Dogwood name appears throughout the state, from Dogwood Harbor in Chesapeake to Dogwood Street in Virginia Beach. There is no doubt Thomas Jefferson would approve!
Washington – Coast Rhododendron
Photo Courtesy: 1 800 Flowers for Gift Seattle
Women in Washington State organized a statewide election in 1892 to select the state flower. Washington poet laureate, Ella Higginson of Bellingham suggested that the clover would be ideal. Alsora Hayner Fry was a fan of the coast rhododendron and nominated it in Washington newspapers. The two flowers emerged and battled for the title.
The statewide voting that was only open to women and the campaigning began in earnest. Mrs. Fry’s rhododendron with its “wild profusion, great beauty and its evergreen leaf, which goes with the Evergreen State” was denigrated as an import from California. Rhododendron supporters attacked the clover as “cattle forage”. Voters flocked to post offices, drugstores, hotels, and other public business places to cast their ballots for the official state flower. In the end, the coast rhododendron was favored by capturing 53% of the 15,000 ballots cast. The Washington Senate took action and approved Mrs. Fry’s coast rhododendron as the official state flower on February 10, 1893.
The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 1931, names the rhododendron as Washington’s state flower selected by the people. But only one half of the Washington Legislature actually approved the rhododendron the represent the state. Sixty-six years later on February 10, 1949, the rhododendron was approved by both houses as the official flower of Washington. In 1959, the law was amended through the efforts of Mr. Leonard Frisbie to specify Rhododendron macropyllum as the specific variety of rhododendron intended to represent Washington State.
The Coast Rhododendron remains prized in the Evergreen State. It enjoys protection from being picked in the wild where it grows naturally along forest edges and in clearings created by tree falls and fires. Washington’s state flower is typically 6-8 feet tall at maturity, however it can reach heights of 20-30 feet. The flower’s dark green leaves are oblong-shaped and extend between 3 to 6 inches long and 1-3 inches wide. In springtime, the flower issues forth a colorful array of large, tubular blossoms. The flowers range in color from pale pink to darker pink, and occasionally, white. Despite its natural beauty, rhododendron leaves and flowers contain toxic substances. Humans or wildlife should never ingest any part of the plant.
Sources: netstate.com & proflowers.com
West Virginia – Big Laurel
Photo Courtesy: Proflowers
Big laurel is also called great laurel, great rhododendron, rosebay, and rosebay rhododendron. In 1901 near the end of his term, records show the outgoing Governor George Atkinson praising the attractive flowering plant, “I know none more beautiful and none more common in West Virginia, than the Rhododendron. It is found along most every vale and hillside, and is universally admired both for its beauty and fragrance.” Lawmakers named the Rhododendron West Virginia’s state flower on January 23, 1903 after an overwhelming majority vote of the state’s school children along with the Governor’s recommendation.
Rhododendrons are extremely common in West Virginia. The fragrant shrubs, which are members of the heath family, grow in almost every region of the state except for in its westernmost counties. West Virginia’s state flower flourishes on ravines, hillsides, and under thick tree canopies of hemlock and maples. The perennials’ success is partly due to its ability to thrive in various conditions including sun and dense shade. West Virginia’s state flower can also grow to be quite wide and high. Though the average height is approximately 15 feet, some can reach 40 feet. Every year in July, Rhododendrons bloom with pink or white flower clusters. Each cluster contains up to 25 flowers and provides an attractive contrast to the Rhododendron’s dark evergreen foliage. The pretty blooms of the Rhododendron also attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Sources: netstate.com & proflowers.com
Wisconsin – Wood Violet
Photo Courtesy: proflowers
Wisconsin residents admired the Wood Violet long before it was officially designated the state flower. Pictures of it appeared on a state stamp in 1848 – a century before its official designation. Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, C.P. Cary. Mr. Cary was concerned in 1908 that Wisconsin had no official state flower and he decided to do something about it. As the state’s top educator, he wanted the selection of a state flower to be decided by the school children. Wisconsin school children picked the Wood Violet to be state flower in 1909, but it was not officially designated the state flower until June 4, 1949. They chose a flower that thrived in the state’s wet climate and woodland environment. Across the state, the Wood Violet flowers from Racine to Milwaukee and from Madison to Green Bay. These flowers actually grow in all but four of the state’s numerous counties.
For most Wisconsin residents, the Wood Violet signifies something more than popularity: it harkens the long-awaited return of spring. Come February, Violet flowers begin to unfold in the state’s wet woodlands and once snow-covered meadows. The low-growing plants spring up along roadsides, riverbeds and under tall trees.
The Wisconsin state flower consists of a long, slender stem and five purple petals. The upper petals are generally a deeper shade of purple than the other three. The two lower petals are separated by a third, broader petal upon which pollinators land.
Sources: “Wisconsin State Flower – Wood Violet”. proflowers. & “Wisconsin. Wisconsin State Flower.” netstate.
Whyoming – Indian Paintbrush
Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The gorgeous Indian Paintbrush actually met tough opposition in its initial debate to become Wyoming’s official state flower. In polls of Wyoming schoolchildren, the fringed gentian proved to be a favorite and it served as an unofficial state flower in the early years of the 20th century. But, Wyoming had no official state flower and it was felt by many, among them the Daughters of the American Revolution in Wyoming, that it was important to choose one. The Wyoming Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution put their support behind the Indian paintbrush. The University of Wyoming’s Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard drafted the legislation and found a sponsor for the bill.
One of the country’s leading botanists, Dr. Aven Nelson, also of the University of Wyoming, objected to the adoption of the Indian paintbrush. He made his objections known in the Wyoming School Journal of 1917: Indian paintbrushes were not common throughout the state. There were too many varieties and only an expert could tell them apart. They were parasitic, feeding on the roots of other plants. There was no widespread support for the plant. Unofficial, the fringed gentian chosen by Wyoming schoolchildren was a sentimental favorite. Dr. Nelson favored adoption of a flower that was common throughout the state and one that could be grown in gardens. He suggested the columbine or the schoolchildren’s favorite, the fringed gentian as options.
Dr. Hebard, lobbying for the Indian paintbrush, was a powerful opponent: Political Science Professor, Civil Engineer, Historian, Author, Wyoming’s first Woman Attorney, University Librarian, Head of the Department of Political Economy, and Suffragette. Grace Hebard was a force to be reckoned with. She lobbied hard for the Indian paintbrush, even commissioning a New York artist to paint a picture of the flower for the legislators.
The State of Wyoming, by an act of the Fourteenth State Legislature convened in Cheyenne and approved on January 31, 1917, made the Indian paintbrush (Castilleja linariaefolia) the official state flower of Wyoming.
After the Indian paintbrush was adopted, Dr. Hebard presented her commissioned painting to the state.
Wyoming’s Indian Paintbrush (Castillija linariaefolia) is also referred to as the Desert Paintbrush, the Wyoming Desert Paintbrush, Wyoming Paintbrush, the Linaria-leaved Indian Paintbrush, and Prairie Fire.
The flower is a genus of about 200 species of annual and perennial herbaceous plants. It is found on rocky slopes and arid plains and is associated with sagebrush scrub, pinyon pine, or juniper woodland. It is a member of the Figwort family, a perennial boasting a cluster of stems that grow upward from the base, up to 60 cm. tall. The top of the stem look as though they’ve been dipped in bright red paint, hence the name Indian Paintbrush. The “painted cups” of the Indian Paintbrush aren’t true flowers, but amazingly colored flower-like bracts. As mentioned before as one of Dr. Nelson’s objections, the Indian Paintbrush is a semi-parasitic flower. It attaches to the tubes of host plants by their roots. Indian Paintbrushes suck the nutrients and water from the host plants, making it difficult to grow. The plant is generally grown from seed, when sown directly in fall. The leaves are long, narrow, and pointed, and the upper leaves have three hairy lobes. The leaves also have fruit capsules embedded with lots of seeds. Dyes have actually been made from this part of the Indian Paintbrush plant.
Sources: “Whyoming State Flower- The Indian Paintbrush.” Proflowers., “Indian Paintbrush. Whyoming State Flower.” State Symbols USA, “Whyoming. Whyoming State Flower” Net State.