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Alabama State Wildflower

Oak-leaf Hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia Adopted: May 25, 1999
Alabama state wildflower
Alabama State Wildflower: Oak-leaf Hydrangea
J.S. Peterson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Used with permission.

In 1939, the goldenrod was named Alabama's official state flower. But, in 1959, the Alabama Legislature voted to replace the goldenrod with the camellia.

That set off a 10-year battle to try to undo the decision. Opponents argued that the camellia was not native to Alabama. But camellia lovers countered that its blooms didn’t cause hay fever like the goldenrod *, and it’s red and white colors matched the state colors. [ 1 ]

In essence the conflict was native flower versus import. Camellias are beautiful flowers that come in a wide variety of colors and types. But camellias, native to China, do not represent anything particular to Alabama it was argued.

As time went on, the contention over the state flower faded.

Open discord may have faded but there still remained a strong consensus within the state that the official flower should be a plant that was native to the state and not an import, no matter the particular qualities of that import.

Not wanting to dredge up old animosities regarding suitability for the position of official state flower of Alabama, the Alabama Wildflower Society began promoting legislation that would name a native plant, the oak-leaf hydrangea the state's official wildflower while leaving the camellia to enjoy its status as the state's official flower.

State Representative Gerald Willis brought the proposal to the Alabama Legislature. In addition to naming the oak-leaf hydrangea the state's official wildflower, the legislation also specified, unlike the 1959 text, a specific species of camellia as the state flower; Camellia japonica L.

Initial reaction, in the House of Representatives and the Senate, was not overwhelming. Bills assigned to the Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Committee never re-emerged.

Willis and the Alabama Wildflower Society were back, again, in 1999. Again, Rep. Willis' bill, House Bill No. 57, was referred to the Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Committee. It looked like a fate similar to previous years was cast upon House Bill No. 57.

But House Bill No. 57 did not languish in committee. It emerged with a favorable recommendation and was approved by a vote of the Alabama House of Representatives on March 23, 1999.

Further, the bill was approved by the Alabama State Senate on May 25, 1999.

That same day, at 6:20 P.M., Governor Forrest Hood, or just plain Fob, James signed House Bill No.57 making a particular species, Camellia japonica, the official state flower and designating the oak-leaf hydrangea Alabama's official state wildflower.

With the passage of this bill, and after three years of effort by the Alabama Wildflower Society, Alabama now had an official state flower and an official wildflower. House Bill No. 57 also specified that specimens of the flowers should be maintained at Auburn University. The text of House Bill No. 57 follows:

Rep(s). By Representative Willis

House Bill No. 57

Enrolled, An Act,

SYNOPSIS: Under existing law, the camellia is the official state flower of Alabama. The state does not have an official state wildflower.

This bill would specify the species of camellia to be designated as the state flower and would designate the oak-leaf hydrangea as the official state wildflower.


To amend Section 1-2-11, Code of Alabama 1975, to specify the species of camellia to be designated as the state flower; and to designate the oak-leaf hydrangea as the official state wildflower.

Section 1. Section 1-2-11, Code of Alabama 1975, is amended to read as follows:


"(a) The camellia, Camellia japonica L., is hereby designated and named as the official state flower of Alabama.

"(b) The oak-leaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia Bartr., is hereby designated and named as the official state wildflower of Alabama.

"(c) Specimens of the state flower and the state wildflower shall be deposited in the Auburn University Herbarium, which is the state herbarium for Alabama."

Section 2. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.

* At one time, it was a common misconception that goldenrod was responsible for bouts of hay fever. The blame can rightly be attributed to ragweed.


"Alabama State Flower." eReferenceDesk.com. Web Marketing Services, LLC. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

[ 1 ] "Move over Camellia -- Alabama Recognizes Oak Leaf Hydrangea." The News-Courier. 27 May 1999. The News-Courier. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

"State Wildflower of Alabama." Official Symbols and Emblems of Alabama. Alabama Department of Archives and History, 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.

"SECTION 1-2-11." The Code of Alabama. The State of Alabama, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/CoALogin.aspx>.

Shankle, George Earlie. State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers, and Other Symbols. Irvine, Calif.: Reprint Services Corp, Revised edition, 1971.

Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.

Additional Information

Alabama state wildflower
Alabama State Wildflower: Oak-leaf Hydrangea
J.S. Peterson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Used with permission.

Plant Identification Resource: Auburn University Horticultural Department.

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea): The Encyclopedia of Life v2: Providing Global Access to Knowledge About Life on Earth.

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea): United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service; Plants Database.

Hydrangea quercifolia ( Bartram): Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Here you will find authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea): Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Native Plants Database.

Hydrangea: Kerry Smith, Horticulture Associate - Auburn University.

The Alabama Wildflower Society: Official website.

State wildflowers: Complete list of official state wildflowers from NETSTATE.COM

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Alabama state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

Complete Hydrangeas
Complete Hydrangeas
Glyn Church

Complete Hydrangeas, by Glyn Church. 144 pages. Publisher: Firefly Books (March 20, 2007)

Newly developed cultivars have increased the range of this popular plant. The book is a comprehensive guide to hydrangeas with more than 230 recommended clones and all the information needed to grow them.

The large number of hydrangea cultivars developed in recent years has done much to increase their popularity across North America. Gardeners in colder regions, who could not grow these brilliant bloomers, now have many choices available. Today there are new super-hardy, dwarf and compact varieties; new colors; and new forms of these satisfying plants.

The New Southern Living Garden Book: The Ultimate Guide to Gardening
The New Southern Living
Garden Book

The Editors of
Southern Living Magazine

The New Southern Living Garden Book: The Ultimate Guide to Gardening, by the Editors of Southern Living Magazine. 768 pages. Publisher: Oxmoor House (January 13, 2015)

An all-new revised and updated edition, The New Southern Living Garden Book is the definitive source on gardening from the brand Southern gardeners have turned to for nearly 50 years. Completely redesigned and updated for the first time in 10 years, the new edition features over 1,700 beautiful color photographs and over 7,000 featured plants. Enhanced features include a monthly garden checklist, a Q&A section to tackle everyday problems, and garden design solutions, plus industry experts provide the hottest trends and tips combined with old-fashioned wisdom. From the new homeowner just starting out in gardening to the Master Class gardener, this book will be an essential resource.

U.S. State Flowers in Counted Cross Stitch
U.S. State Flowers in Counted Cross Stitch
Gerda Bengtsson

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.