Your State's Official Flower May Actually be an Alien

Photo: ✿ nicolas_gent ✿ / cc

Our love-affair with flowers stretches back as far as recorded history, so it's no wonder that we esteem them so highly. In fact, we have so much affection for the budding blossoms around us that every state in America has added legislation to the books designating an official flower -- to serve as a living symbol of the natural beauty each of those 50 states possess. But despite the emblematic power these flower have in stirring regional pride, surprisingly some state flowers aren't native species at all -- and some even originate from, gasp, foreign soil. It seems intuitive that each state's official flower would be, if not unique to that state, found growing there natively. But according to a floral exposé by Karan Davis Cutler of the Christian Science Monitor, a handfull of legislative honored flower species are foreigners to the core, like Vermont's charming Red clover, native to pretty much everywhere other than the Americas.

And no, it wasn't named by Joseph McCarthy.

Cutler elaborates on other non-native official flowers:

Most states have chosen native species as their state flowers, but Vermont's not the only state to pick an exotic, or introduced, plant. In 1919, New Hampshire claimed the purple lilac, Syringa vulgaris, as its state bloom. Common lilacs were early immigrants to North America, but are native to Europe.

Indiana went even farther afield and chose the peony, Paeonia lactiflora, in 1957. There are two peonies native to the coastal mountains of North America, but the peony Indiana claims comes from China. (For the record, the peony is Indiana's fourth state flower, the successor to the carnation, the tulip tree flower, and the zinnia.)

Sure, it defies nationalistic expectations that such non-native species would be selected as a state's official flower mascot of sorts, but perhaps therein lies the beauty of it. After all, flowers hold no cultural allegiances, and as far as I'm aware, aren't terribly concerned about regional politics, yet despite this, or maybe because of this, we regard them so highly. For a moment, while marveling at their colorful blooms or enjoying a sniff of their alluring bouquets, our sense of common wonder is unbound by borders -- and the idea of having aliens growing in the backyard doesn't seem so bad after all.

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