Flowers to the People
Does your state have a special wildflower?
IT’S ALWAYS “WILDFLOWER WEEK” HERE at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, but the first full week of May makes it official across the nation: May 2–8 is National Wildflower Week, featuring a variety of educational opportunities and nature walks at the Center and around Austin.
Even if you live somewhere that’s not quite blooming yet, there’s plenty to learn and appreciate about wildflowers beyond your own borders. Many states have official state wildflowers in addition to state flowers or floral emblems. Join us in celebrating National Wildflower Week with our roundup of featured state wildflowers below — and look up your own state here!
Georgia – Native Azaleas
Georgia’s floral emblem may be the Cherokee rose, but it later chose native azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) as its official state wildflower, honoring what many residents consider “the most beautiful of indigenous shrubs” (Netstate).
Did you know? A lot of people get azaleas and rhododendrons confused (which is not surprising, considering botanical taxonomists have put both in the same genus, Rhododendron). According to our own Mr. Smarty Plants, one of the key differences is that an azalea has five stamens while a rhododendron has ten.
Michigan – Dwarf Lake Iris
The species name “lacustris” translates to “of lakes,” which is fitting considering the dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris) prefers to grow on the sandy shores of the Great Lakes. Perhaps it takes aesthetic inspiration from the sea, because its blooms could certainly double as tiny purple starfish!
Fun fact: This miniature iris grows nowhere else in the world but in the Great Lakes Region (Michigan Department of Natural Resources).
Oklahoma – Indian Blanket
These little floral sunbursts flourish on Oklahoma roadsides thanks to a preference for sun and tolerance for drought — just like in Texas.
Legend has it: The colors of the Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) were inspired by the final work of a beloved Plains Comanche weaver (his own burial shroud); the flowers themselves are the Great Spirit’s tribute to the beloved and respected artisan.
New Hampshire – Pink Lady’s Slipper
Cinderella’s got nothing on these pink beauties. But only show up to the ball with them in your fantasies and fairytales — and keep your feet on the path, because attempts to transplant these unique orchids have significantly affected their numbers in New Hampshire forests.
Fungi love: Pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule), also called moccasin flower, has a symbiotic relationship with a mycorrhizal soil fungus, meaning attempts at transplanting often fail (State Symbols USA).
Ohio – White Trillium
This three-pronged beauty is a “spring ephemeral,” or a plant whose life-cycle is synchronized with that of its deciduous woodland habitat (Wikipedia).
Name game: White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) is also called white wake-robin, large-flower wake-robin, snow trillium, great white trillium or large white trillium.
Alabama – Oak-leaf Hydrangea
A deciduous flower-bearing shrub, Oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) — named for the shape of its foliage — is found all throughout Alabama.
In living color: This capricious changeling starts out with white flowers and green leaves, but these turn to deep shades of rose and red, respectively, during the fall and winter seasons (Alabama Department of Archives and History).
Tennessee – Tennessee Coneflower
The Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis), with its delicate spray of thin purple petals, is found only in the limestone and cedar glades of Middle Tennessee. In fact, it’s so rare it was thought to be extinct until being rediscovered in the late ‘60s (State Symbols USA).
Danger zone: One of the nation’s rarest wildflowers, the Tennessee coneflower was the second plant listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1979.
More on the Wildflower Center’s National Wildflower Week activities — including walks and talks, field trips and family-friendly programs — can be found here.