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National Geographic Magazine/Volume 31/Number 6/Our State Flowers

Our State FlowersEdit

The Floral Emblems Chosen by the Commonwealths

By the Editor, with paintings by Mary E. Eaton


 
Albert Schlechten

A CLOVER FIELD IN MONTANA

Although thirty-eight of the States have in one way or another expressed their preferences and chosen their flower queens, this is the first attempt that has been made to assemble in a single publication color paintings and descriptions of all the State flowers.

The National Geographic Magazine in this number prints as its annual tribute to the “children of summer” pictures of the blossoms which have been chosen as the floral favorites of the various States.

Realizing that an emblem of natural beauty is as significant and essential as a State seal, motto, or flag, twenty-six States, more than one-half of the nation's commonwealths, have formally, by legislative action and gubernatorial approval, selected State flowers.

Six other States have accepted the verdict of the school children as the voice of the people, while six others have adopted floral emblems by common consent, mainly under the leadership of the club women of the respective commonwealths. The ten remaining States and the District of Columbia have either taken no action at all or else action possessing so little weight of authority that the several Secretaries of State do not recognize it (see index, below).

Although thirty-eight of the States have in one way or another expressed their preferences and chosen their flower queens, this is the first attempt that has been made to assemble in a single publication color paintings and descriptions of all the State flowers.

These pictures, like those of previous flower series appearing in the Geographic, are very costly reproductions of the exquisitely beautiful paintings from life made especially for this Magazine by Mary E. Eaton, of the New York Botanical Garden.

In making their choices the legislatures, women's clubs, and school children of the several States were confronted in every instance by a plethora rather than a paucity of floral treasures from which to select a favorite, for the United States contains a much greater number of species of wild flowers than any equal area on the globe.

Nations have long honored particular flowers with heartiness and devotion—Ireland, the shamrock, that beautiful bit of green with which it is alleged St. Patrick demonstrated the doctrine of the Trinity; Scotland, the thistle, which pricked the foot of the Dane and awakened all Scotland with his cry of pain, saving her from the heel of the invader; and France, the lily, which Ruskin called the flower of chivalry (the iris, or blue flag).

Our series pictures every flower that has been chosen by legislative action or is regarded by common consent as the State flower. But in cases where different species of the same flower have been selected by several States, only one specimen is pictured (as the goldenrod, violet, rose, and rhododendron).

Some of the difficulties of making this collectionEdit

Some difficulty, however, has been experienced in the selection of the exact species to be portrayed. For instance, in the case of Minnesota, although the act of the legislature gives the name of the flower chosen as Cypripedium calceolus, the extract from the official year book of the State, furnished the National Geographic Society by the Secretary of State, gives six different species as representative of the State flower, among which is Cypripedium acaule, but among which Cypripedium calceolus does not appear.

Again, in the case of Nebraska, the act of the legislature choosing the goldenrod as the official flower designates Solidago serotina as the particular species. On the other hand, this species is not the most widely distributed in other States which have a preference for the goldenrod. It is believed that Solidago nemoralis is one of the most representative goldenrods, and one which would be probably the composite of preferences of all of the States having that flower, either officially or unofficially.

Colorado's legislature expressly names the “white and lavender columbine,” with no Latin name attached, as the State flower; yet today, through a later vote of the school children, the blue and white columbine is everywhere in Colorado recognized as the State flower.

The acts of the Arkansas and Michigan legislatures simply call for “the apple blossom.” The Illinois law refers to its preference only as “the native violet,” of which there are numerous species, while the Louisiana law names no species, but simply says “magnolia.” The Delaware law gives no scientific designation, but speaks only of “the peach blossom.”

The resolution of the Ohio legislature names the “scarlet carnation,” while in the Indiana law the only designation is “the carnation.” Remembering how many colors of carnation there are in existence today, the one chosen was left, in the case of Indiana, to the discretion of the artist.

The reader should note that the carnation pictured is really too deep a red for the State flower of Ohio, which has a brighter tone.

When the State of Kansas came to adopt the sunflower, the resolution of the legislature used the term “helianthus, or wild native sunflower.”

The resolution of the legislature of Texas sets forth that the State flower is “Lupinus subcarnosus, commonly known as the buffalo clover, or bluebonnet.” There appears to be so little difference between Lupinus subcarnosus and Lupinus texensis that no distinction whatever is made between them by the average Texan in plucking the State flower.

In the case of the South Dakota flower, while the artist portrays the species of pasque flower known as Pulsatilla patens, the South Dakota law designates the Anemone patens. The main difference between the two seems to be the matter of a name, since the pasque flower is the name of several plants of the genus anemone, section pulsatilla.

Oklahoma and Minnesota acted officially firstEdit

Oklahoma was the first of our States to take legislative action in the adoption of a State flower. In January, 1893, the Territorial government was considering the question of exhibits for the Chicago World's Fair and a Territorial seal. The ladies of Oklahoma had presented a petition asking that the mistletoe be made the Territory's emblematic flower. A bill to that end was accordingly introduced and passed by a large majority.

Minnesota had a bill pending to make the moccasin flower the State's official blossom at the same time that Oklahoma was debating the issue of the mistletoe. In February, 1893, the Gopher State was preparing its exhibits for the Chicago Fair. The Ladies' Auxiliary of the State World's Fair Commission found only an official flower lacking—which they thought ought to be used in the scheme of decorations. So they prepared a bill making the moccasin flower the emblematic representative of the Commonwealth and presented a widely signed petition in favor of its enactment. The legislature promptly passed the bill.

The next State to take action was Vermont. A concurrent resolution to adopt a flower was introduced in the House of the Vermont legislature, October 19, 1894. It was considered by a special committee consisting of one member from each county—fourteen in all. The name of the flower was not specified until November 8. On that date an agreement was reached which led to the amendment of the bill by the insertion of “red clover.”

The next State to act was Nebraska. On the 29th of January, 1895, the delegate from Boone County introduced a bill to designate a floral emblem for the State. It provided that the goldenrod should be the emblematic flower. On the 23d of March the bill was taken up in committee of the whole. One of the delegates, having in mind that Nebraska was a free silver State moved to substitute the word “silver” for “golden.” His motion was not considered, and the bill was promptly passed by the House and Senate.

Delaware was the fifth State in the Union legislatively to adopt a State flower, when by an act of the legislature, approved May 5, 1895, that State chose the peach blossom as its representative. There was very little debate and the sentiment in its favor was practically unanimous.

Montana also chose a State flower in 1895, its legislature adopting the bitter root almost unanimously.

Michigan followed the example of Delaware in awarding its floral honors to the blossom of its favorite fruit. In the preamble of its resolution, approved April 28, 1897, adopting the apple blossom, the legislature declared that a refined sentiment seemed to call for the adoption of a State flower; that the blossoming apple trees add much to the beauty of Michigan landscapes; that Michigan apples have gained a world-wide reputation, and that at least one of the most fragrant and beautiful flowered species of apple, the Pyrus coronaria, is native to the State.

The year 1899 witnessed the accession of two States to the ranks of those enjoying legislatively created floral emblems. On January 30, 1899, a petition was introduced in the Oregon Senate reciting the fact that the women's clubs of Portland, in regular session assembled, had declared in favor of the Oregon grape as a State flower, and asking the legislature to enact their recommendation into law. What little debate there was indicated a practical unanimity of sentiment, and the measure was ready for the Governor's signature on February 2 of that year.

In Colorado the school children overrule the legislatorsEdit

Colorado holds a unique position in the matter of flower legislation. The lawmakers of the Centennial State passed an act, approved April 4, 1899, designating the white and lavender columbine as the State flower of Colorado. This, however, did not please the school children. Accordingly, on Arbor Day of 1911 they submitted the question to a referendum in which they were the only qualified voters. Out of 22,316 votes cast, 14,472 were in favor of the blue and white columbine (Aquilegia cœrulea). No other flower received over 1,200 votes. The governor and the legislature seem to have concluded that the children are the court of last resort in such a matter and have apparently acquiesced in their decision.

Louisiana was the next State to act. June 20, 1900, a bill making the magnolia the State flower was read in the House. July 6 it passed that body by a vote of 62 to 2. Six days later it passed the Senate by the unanimous vote of 32 to 0.

Arkansas, by legislative action, January, 1901, chose the apple blossom.

The very next month Texas took up the question. On February 28, 1901, a Senate concurrent resolution was introduced, the preamble of which recited the fact that the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, Texas branch, had requested of the legislature that it adopt “Lupinus subcarnosus, generally known as the buffalo clover, or bluebonnet,” as the State flower. Sentiment in favor of the bluebonnet was so general that there was little debate, and the measure was passed and finally approved by the Governor on March 7.

In West Virginia also the children lead the wayEdit

In West Virginia the subject of an official State flower had long been a theme of discussion among teachers and others interested in school work. It did not take form, however, until 1901, when the Governor in his message to the legislature recommended the adoption of a State flower and suggested the rhododendron, or big laurel, as the most appropriate.

Under the direction of the State Superintendent of Free Schools, the school children of the State, on the 25th of November, 1902, voted upon the question of a selection. Out of 33,854 votes cast, 19,131 were for the laurel, 3,663 for the honeysuckle, 3,387 for the wild rose, and 3,162 for the goldenrod. On the 8th day of January, 1903, the legislature adopted a joint resolution designating the rhododendron, or big laurel, as the official State flower.

California had long been advocating the enactment of a law making the golden poppy the Golden Gate State's official flower. More than fifteen years ago a bill was introduced in the Senate and had passed both houses, recognizing the yellow-hued beauty; but the Governor vetoed the measure. The House then passed it over his veto, but the Senate permitted it to die. The bill was reintroduced in the next legislature, January 21, 1903. It passed the Senate on February 2 by a vote of 28 to 1. It received practically a unanimous vote also in the House. On March 2 the new Governor advised the legislature that he had approved the bill, and the golden poppy became the State flower of California.

The bill to make the sunflower the floral emblem of Kansas was introduced on February 10, 1903. The Senate passed it by a vote of 30 to 0, and the House by 31 to 0.

South Dakota's resolution selecting the pasque flower as her floral emblem was enacted March 4, 1903, and provided that on and after the passage of the act the State floral emblem of South Dakota should be the pasque flower (Anemone patens), with the accompanying motto: “I lead.”

Ohio chooses McKinley's favorite flowerEdit

The State of Ohio officially adopted the scarlet carnation as its emblematic flower on the 29th day of January, 1904. Both houses unanimously voted for the measure. The law is as follows: “The scarlet carnation is hereby adopted as the State flower of Ohio, as a token of love and reverence for the memory of William McKinley.”

Connecticut chose the mountain laurel as its State flower after a report of the Committee on Agriculture in the Senate favoring such action. One senator opposed the bill, saying that he regarded it as unnecessary legislation, but that if the clover had been recommended he would have been inclined to favor it as the nearest approach in this country to the shamrock he loved. He doubted, however, if there was any necessity for the legislation. Another senator declared that he was bound to favor anything three thousand women could agree on. In the House the choice was advocated in enthusiastic terms. Upon each desk sprigs of mountain laurel were distributed by persons in favor of the bill. After a short discussion it passed. When the measure was pending in the Senate the botanical name of the laurel was inserted by a senator, who complained that the request was out of order when some one asked him to spell it.

North Dakota adopted the wild prairie rose by legislative action in 1907, the same year that Florida's legislature selected the orange blossom. By act of the General Assembly the violet has been the State flower of Illinois since the 1st of July, 1908.

Utah officially recognized the sego lily as its choice by act of its legislature in 1911. Indiana selected the carnation by legislative act in 1903, but did not specify the color of the carnation, which in our illustration was left to the artist.

The State flower movement was started by New YorkEdit

The State flower movement in the United States was started by New York, although its legislature has never yet officially sanctioned a flower. In 1890 a school vote was taken in the entire State, with the result that the goldenrod was adopted by a vote of 81,308 as against 79,666 for other candidates. A year later the case was reopened, and this time the rose led, receiving 294,816 votes as against 206,402 for all the other entries. From that time the rose has been considered New York's official flower, though the vote did not specify any particular rose.

Rhode Island also chose its official emblem by the vote of the school children. In May, 1897, there was a plebiscite of the children, with the result that the violet was overwhelmingly favored and was declared the representative flower of the State.

The school children in Mississippi made the choice for that State. In 1900 the matter was submitted to a referendum, with the result that the magnolia was their nearly unanimous favorite.

The violet is also the unhesitating choice of the school children of Wisconsin. In 1909 the matter was submitted to a vote, with the result that the violet got 67,178 preferences, the rose 31,024, the arbutus 27,068, and the white water lily 22,648.

Maine's adherence to the pine cone and tassel was given by the vote of the public schools of the State, the same being true of New Mexico's support of the cactus.

According to reports furnished the National Geographic Society by the Secretaries of State and other officials of the several States, Idaho favors the syringa by common consent; the wild rose was chosen by common consent in Iowa; the Kentucky Historical Society and citizens of Kentucky prefer the trumpet vine, and the sagebrush is generally accepted in Nevada. The people of North Carolina favor the daisy generally, while through the work of the women's clubs the State of Washington held a contest which resulted in the choice of the rhododendron as that Commonwealth's flower.

Ten States have selected no State flowerEdit

In the case of Alabama it is reported that no action has ever been taken toward the adoption of a State flower, though several authorities put down the goldenrod as its emblematic blossom.

The people of Maryland are said to favor the black-eyed susan, with the sunflower second; but no formal decision has yet been made.

In Massachusetts, although the mayflower, because of its good cheer to the Pilgrims, has met with great favor, no formal selection has been made. Missouri officials say that no State flower has ever been adopted, yet several authorities publicly declare that the goldenrod has been accepted by a school vote.

New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia are without State flowers, either officially or unofficially. Popular opinion seems never to have crystalized about any one flower in these States, or in the District of Columbia, which also has no floral emblem.

Although the State authorities in Tennessee advise that no State flower has ever been chosen, one outside list gives the goldenrod and another the daisy. The same is true in the case of New Jersey. The Commissioner of Education of that State writes that, so far as he is aware, New Jersey has never chosen a State flower.

Index to our State flowersEdit

* Legislature previously had chosen the lavender and white columbine.
† Indiana's legislature designated the carnation, but did not specify the color.
‡ The vote did not specify the species of rose selected.
§ The scarlet carnation of Ohio's choice is of brighter color than the illustration.
Name of State. Name of flower. By whom chosen. Illustrated.
Alabama No choice.
Arizona Sahuaro or Giant Cactus Legislature Yes
Arkansas Apple Blossom Legislature Yes
California Golden Poppy Legislature Yes
Colorado Blue Columbine * School Children Yes
Connecticut Mountain Laurel Legislature Yes
Delaware Peach Blossom Legislature Yes
District of Columbia No choice.
Florida Orange Blossom Legislature Yes
Georgia Cherokee Rose Legislature No
Idaho Syringa Common Consent Yes
Illinois Violet Legislature Yes
Indiana Carnation Legislature Yes
Iowa Wild Rose Common Consent Yes
Kansas Sunflower Legislature Yes
Kentucky Trumpet Vine Common Consent Yes
Louisiana Magnolia Legislature Yes
Maine Pine Cone and Tassel School Children Yes
Maryland No choice.
Massachusetts No choice.
Michigan Apple Blossom Legislature Yes
Minnesota Moccasin Flower Legislature Yes
Mississippi Magnolia School Children Yes
Missouri No choice.
Montana Bitter Root Legislature Yes
Nebraska Goldenrod Legislature Yes
Nevada Sagebrush Common Consent Yes
New Hampshire No choice.
New Jersey No choice.
New Mexico Cactus School Children Yes
New York Rose School Children No
North Carolina Daisy Common Consent Yes
North Dakota Wild Prairie Rose Legislature No
Ohio Scarlet Carnation § Legislature Yes
Oklahoma Mistletoe Legislature Yes
Oregon Oregon Grape Legislature Yes
Pennsylvania No choice.
Rhode Island Violet School Children Yes
South Carolina No choice.
South Dakota Pasque Flower Legislature Yes
Tennessee No choice.
Texas Bluebonnet Legislature Yes
Utah Sego Lily Legislature Yes
Vermont Red Clover Legislature Yes
Virginia No choice.
Washington Rhododendron Common Consent No
West Virginia Rhododendron Legislature Yes
Wisconsin Violet School Children Yes
Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Legislature Yes

Source: —, ed. (June 1917), “Our State Flowers: The Floral Emblems Chosen by the Commonwealths”, The National Geographic Magazine 31(6): 481–517.