FLOWERS AND TREES MAKE STATEMENTS
you know the name of your state tree? State flower? Every state has
one of each, but I would venture a guess that, aside from botanists,
many residents cannot name either and even fewer can name both.
far as the botanists go, some might think it redundant to have a state
tree and a state flower because trees, except for conifers, have flowers.
have made excellent choices. The redwood of California, saguaro cactus
of Arizona and bald cypress of Louisiana are iconic representatives
with which people are familiar. The choices for California and Louisiana
are even within the botanical guidelines for having both a state tree
and flower because redwoods and cypress are conifers.
flowers of California and Louisiana are the golden poppy and the magnolia
blossom, respectively. The cottonwood is the state tree of Kansas, Nebraska
and Wyoming perhaps because the choice of native trees that grow throughout
each state is somewhat limited.
tree of Texas is the pecan. (And, as of 2013, pecan is the official
state pie.) For the folks in West Texas, the mesquite tree might have
been a more suitable selection. Considering its size, perhaps Texas
should have two state trees. The choice of the Texas bluebonnet as the
state flower seems a reasonable one.
a state legislator who is a botanist might be a good idea considering
some choices that have been made. Georgia, Vermont and Alabama each
picked a non-native species for their state flower. Georgias Cherokee
rose is no more Cherokee than any other Asian plant that was introduced
to the New World in the 1700s. They may be pretty, but they are not
native. Cherokee rose is even considered an invasive species in some
likewise, made the odd choice of red clover as its state flower. Where
the first red clover plants introduced to the country came from may
be debated, but the origin was certainly Europe, Asia or Africa, not
may hold the record for the most perplexing selection of a state flower.
In 1959, the legislature replaced goldenrods, beautiful fall-blooming
native plants, with camellias. Legend has it that the change was pushed
through by garden club ladies who did not think a wild flower should
have pride of place.
legislators specified Camellia japonica as the state flower,
thus giving Alabama a pretty Asian bloom as its state symbol. Perhaps
in an effort to counter that puzzling decision, at the same time, the
oakleaf hydrangea was designated the official state wildflower.
Goldenrod remains as the state flower of Kentucky and Nebraska. (Despite
a widespread misperception, goldenrod does not cause hay fever. The
real culprit is ragweed.)
palmetto, or sabal palm, would be a distinctive state tree if South
Carolina, the Palmetto State, had exclusive rights. But Florida picked
the same tree. South Carolinas state flower, the yellow jessamine
(aka jasmine), has a trait to be reckoned with. The vines, roots and
trumpet-shaped flowers of the jessamine are packed with strychnine,
making them poisonous to ingest. Jessamine is even toxic to some pollinators,
including honeybees, which would presumably produce some dangerous honey
if that were their primary nectar source.
recognition of trees and flowers as representative of a state can help
increase public awareness of regional plant diversity. The same is true
for state animals. Selecting a non-native species as a state symbol
undermines that goal. Knowing a states wildlife symbols (tree,
flower, insect, mammal, fish, etc.) should be a requirement for children
students learn about their states symbols can have small but positive
impacts, both direct and indirect, on attitudes toward the environment.
With a little creative thinking in the classroom, enterprising teachers
and students in Alabama, Georgia and Vermont might even develop a proposal
to change their state flower to a native species and submit it to the
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