Author Glynda Joy Nord’s botanical anthology, Official State Flowers and Trees: Their Unique Stories, is an insightful excursion into the history of how the 50 states selected the flowers and trees they display on their emblems. From President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 proclamation certifying the rose as the national flower, to Hawaii’s symbol of royalty — the hibiscus — Nord recounts entertaining anecdotes of how politicians, school children and private interests played an intricate part in selecting their state’s unique botanical representations.
Nord writes, for example, that Alaska’s small flower, the forget-me-not, was chosen by Klondike prospectors and other men to signify their desire to be remembered. Across the continent, in the nation’s smallest state of Rhode Island, school children were instrumental in choosing the violet (the third state to do so) as their floral representative. In the Southwest, Arizona’s iconic 30-foot saguaro cactus is protected by law, “and no part of it may be taken without a permit,” writes Nord.
Many of the floral choices boast a rich history of mythical and medicinal lore. The blue, white and yellow columbine flower (adopted by Colorado in 1891) was used by Native-Americans for medical purpose. Ironically, almost 100 years to the day that the columbine was embraced, the worst school shooting in U.S. history took place at namesake Columbine High School.
Laid out alphabetically and enhanced with lovely line drawings of flowers and tree foliage, the 50-plus chapters (Nord is thoughtful enough to include U.S. territories Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin and Mariana islands) are short, so that readers will be compelled to continue onto the next chapter. Indeed, Nord’s success at unearthing fascinating anecdotes makes Official State Flowers and Trees: Their Unique Stories hard to put down.
The author has penned an excellent book that not only teaches readers something about their state flowers and trees, but keeps them entertained as it does so.
Also available in hardcover.