You most likely know about state symbols like animals and birds, but are you aware that it was the introduction of state flowers that started the trend? Back in 1893 during preparation for the World’s Fair in Chicago, the creators of the National Garland of Flowers invited each state to select a flower to be added.
Minnesota was the first, adopting the lady slipper (Cypripedium reginae) as their state flower, and Oklahoma soon followed with mistletoe. Not surprisingly, in many states agreements weren’t so easily reached. As a matter of fact, by the time of the World’s Fair, few states had agreed upon an official state flower.
The debate over state flowers got particularly heated in some states, which ended up choosing both an official flower and an official wildflower when they couldn’t decide. In New Hampshire, they took the debate to the House and Senate and brought in two college botany professors to help end a stalemate between the apple blossom and the purple lilac. After extensive arguments, the experts convinced the legislature to embrace the purple lilac. (Good news, since both Arkansas and Michigan also chose the apple blossom.) Another tactic used when no adults could agree was to have school children vote on their choice for state flower.
Some state flowers were chosen for historical reasons, while others were picked because of the economic significance of their plants, such as Florida and the orange blossom. A few state flowers have changed since the original selection for various reasons, including the discovery that certain flowers weren’t native to the states for which they were originally chosen. For instance, though Oklahoma originally chose the mistletoe, today their state flower is the Oklahoma rose. Most state flowers have remained the same since the early 1900s.
Many states are particularly proud of their state flowers, which in many ways have become synonymous with the states themselves, like the eye-catching bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) of Texas, California’s bright orange poppy (Eschscholzia californica), and Mississippi’s Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora).
Do you know your state flower? Check out the slideshow and find out about your state’s floral favorite.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a garden writer and master gardener, who since 1985 has written for publications such as Organic Gardening, Wildflower, Better Homes and Gardens and The Los Angeles Times. She is the author of five books, including Fairy Gardening, The Strawberry Story, and Indoor Gardening the Organic Way, and is the founder of HealthyHouseplants.com.