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Washington State Flower

Pacific or Coast Rhododendron Rhododendron macrophyllum D. Don ex G. Don Adopted:1949
Washington State Flower: Coast Rhododendron
Washington State Flower: Coast Rhododendron

Adoption of the Washington State Flower

Conceived as a way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyages to the "new world," the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago provided the venue for a unique trend that continues to this day, the designation of symbols and emblems as defining characteristics of each state. It was the Women's Congress that came up with the idea of a "National Garland of Flowers" at the fair comprised of a representative flower from each state.

Inspired Washingtonians picked up the gauntlet and began the process of naming a flower to represent their state in the National Garland of Flowers. Many flowers were considered including the dogwood, syringa, gaillardia, Washington holly, marguerite, and the wild rose.

Washington poet laureate Ella Higginson of Bellingham suggested that the clover would be ideal. Alsora Hayner Fry was a fan of the coast rhododendron and nominated it in Washington newspapers. In Spokane, some women thought that the symbolism of the stylized iris known as the fleur-de-lis (French: flower of the lily) would serve the state well and The Spokane Times concurred. Two flowers emerged to contend for the title, perhaps because of their champions. The clover and rhododendron, or "rhodie," were to go head to head in the statewide voting only open to women.

The campaigning began in earnest. Mrs. Fry's rhododendron with its “wild profusion, great beauty and its evergreen leaf, which goes with the Evergreen State" was denigrated as imported from California. Rhodie supporters attacked the clover as cattle forage.

Voters flocked to post offices, drugstores, hotels, and other public business places to cast their ballots for the official state flower. There were no landslide victories in this contest. In the end, the coast rhododendron was favored by capturing 53 percent of the 15,000 ballots cast.

The Washington Senate took action and approved Mrs. Fry's coast rhododendron as the official state flower on February 10, 1893, in time for the Exposition's opening on May 1st.

The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 1931, names the rhododendron as Washington's state flower selected by the people. But only one half of the Washington Legislature actually approved the rhododendron the represent the state.

Sixty-six years later to the day, on February 10, 1949, the rhododendron (Rhododendron Californicum) was approved by both houses as the official flower of Washington.

In 1959, the law was amended, through the efforts of Mr. Leonard Frisbie, to specify Rhododendron macropyllum as the specific variety of rhododendron intended to represent Washington State.

The Washington Statutes

The following information is excerpted from the Washington Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 1.20, Section 1.20.030.

The native species, Rhododendron macrophyllum, is hereby designated as the official flower of the state of Washington.

Additional Information

Washington State Flower: Coast Rhododendron
Washington State Flower: Coast Rhododendron

Pacific Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum D. Don ex G. Don): Tree Identification Fact Sheet from the Virginia Tech.

Plant Profile for Rhododendron macrophyllum D. Don ex G. Don (Pacific rhododendron): USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

SPECIES: Rhododendron macrophyllum: USDA Forest Service.

Description of Rhododendron macrophyllum: from the American Rhodedendron Society.

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: Revised Code of Washington (RCW), (http://www.leg.wa.gov/rcw/index.cfm), September 13, 2005
Source: Mathews, Naomi, The Evergreen State's Official "Coast Rhododendron", (http://www.gardenguides.com/articles/coastrhododendron.htm), September 17, 2005
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
Source: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: Revised Edition (Reprint)- George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938

 
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