Oklahoma Floral Emblem
Adoption of the Oklahoma Floral Emblem
The Women's Congress of the 1893 Columbian World's Exposition (Chicago World's Fair) proposed that each state should select a unique floral emblem to represent the state at the exposition. This idea evolved into the concept of a National Garland of Flowers.
The National Garland of Flowers was the inspiration for the adoption of official floral emblems across the country and can be credited with a trend that has led to the adoption of symbols and emblems from official state trees and birds to official microinvertebrates.
In the 1890s, when the National Garland of Flowers was conceived, Oklahoma wasn't even a state. Oklahomans were serious about "becoming a state" however and set out to select an official floral emblem that would appropriately represent their share of the landscape.
Oklahoma considered the passionflower, but mistakenly believed that Arkansas had already made that selection. (It is true that the Federation of Women's Clubs in Arkansas was heartily endorsing the passionflower there, but the passionflower was never made official.)
Another plant was held in high esteem by some in Oklahoma. It was the mistletoe.
Though conversations about the adoption of Oklahoma's floral emblem may be lost to history, it's reported that the mistletoe served to decorate settler's graves when no other flowers were available. Perhaps more generally, the color of the evergreen mistletoe throughout the winter is said to symbolize the perseverance of early settlers. In fact, the green of its foliage and the white of its berries serve as the official colors of the Oklahoma today.
Other factors may have also played a role. The mistletoe's history is long and storied stretching back thousands of years.
The Greeks thought that mistletoe possessed mystical properties. The oak mistletoe, rare in Europe, was honored by ancient Celts and Germans. Down through the ages, mistletoe was one of the most magical, mystical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore.
Like many plants, the mistletoe was said to possess medicinal or healing qualities as well. Though the plant is poisonous, mistletoe contains ingredients that recent research indicates have the potential to treat cancer and hypertension.
Finally, there is the tradition that has developed of kissing while standing under the mistletoe. This holiday tradition, traced to ancient Greek festivals and to later marriage rites, clearly defines an economic interest in mistletoe today.
There were plenty of objections to the mistletoe.
The mistletoe is, after all a parasite. Oklahoma's mistletoe lives by attaching itself to trees or shrubs and drawing nutrients from the sap of its host. This didn't rest well with some. Also, since it most often requires a host in the form of a tree or shrub, the parasitic mistletoe is not found throughout the state, missing most notably on Oklahoma's plains. Perhaps the most obvious objection might be that its tiny yellow flowers are so small that they are barely visible.
Though met with what sound like obvious disqualifying objections, the mistletoe was able to triumph and win the honor of being named Oklahoma Territory's official floral emblem. The Oklahoma Territorial Legislature officially adopted the mistletoe as their official floral emblem on February 11, 1893.
It is sometimes written that Oklahoma was the first state to adopt an official flower or floral emblem, but this is not technically true. Oklahoma was not a state when it adopted the mistletoe and would not become a state for another 14 years.
The State of Oklahoma did not forget about their official floral emblem however when they did become a state in 1907. In 1910, the State Legislature approved the mistletoe ( Phoradendron serotinum) as the official floral emblem of the State of Oklahoma.
Objections to the mistletoe as the floral emblem of the state continued to follow it down through the years, particularly among emerging gardeners and the garden clubs of the 1930s. Though the Indian blanket had been adopted as Oklahoma's state wildflower, garden clubs weren't satisfied. They longed for a plant they could cultivate in their home gardens and, in 2004, the Oklahoma rose was adopted as Oklahoma's official state flower. Perhaps in tribute to the early settlers, the mistletoe remains as Oklahoma's official floral emblem.
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:
The Oklahoma Statutes
The following information is excerpted from the Oklahoma Statutes, Title 25, Section 25-92.
TITLE 25. Definitions and General Provisions.
R.L.1910, § 2952. Amended by Laws 2004, c. 89, § 1, eff. Nov. 1, 2004.
Phoradendron leucarpum (Raf.) Reveal & M. C. Johnston: University of Oklahoma: Oklahoma Biological Survey.
Plant Profile for Phoradendron leucarpum (Raf.) Reveal & M.C. Johnston (Oak Mistletoe): USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum): David Byers: Florida Community College at Jacksonville.
Mistletoe its history, meaning and traditions: from The Holiday Spot on the web.
Mistletoe: History and Pharmacology, Revised: by Chris Smelick.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Web site for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.
State Flower List: List of all of the state flowers.
State Birds & Flowers 1000-pc Puzzle: Created at the request of The National Wildlife Federation this design is a beautiful and informative puzzle featuring every state bird perched on the appropriate state flower.
State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book by Annika Bernhard - 51 accurately detailed, copyright-free renderings include national bird (eagle) and flower (rose) plus 50 state birds and flowers.
U. S. State Flowers in Cross Stitch by Gerda Bengtsson - Botanically correct cross stitch designs of state flowers of the 50 States.
Quilting Flowers of the States by Sue Harvey - A lovely 12-inch flower block for each of the 50 states. Techniques used are piecing, appliqué, paper-piecing and three-dimensional techniques.
Plants, Seeds & Flowers: Bulbs, seeds, plants, fertilizer, plant containers and more.
Gardening Tools: Pruners, rakes, shovels, hoes, trowels, cultivators and tillers, greenhouses, yard carts and more.
State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: A Study based on historical documents giving the origin and significance of the state names, nicknames, mottoes, seals, flowers, birds, songs, and descriptive comments on the capitol buildings and on some of the leading state histories, Revised Edition - George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938 (Reprint Services Corp. 1971)
Source: Oklahoma Statutes, September 29, 2005
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