A Guide to the South's State Flowers and the Stories Behind Them

Apple Blossom
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

It seems as though everyone learned about the states and their symbols sometime between second and fifth grades…but can you still remember any of them? We gathered the South's state flowers along with information about them from The New Southern Living Garden Book as well as the stories of how they were chosen as state emblems. According to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, "The state flower movement, which eventually spread to other items, began […] in the 1880s in with Victorian zeal and lots of poetry espousing the virtues of Mayflower or Trailing Arbutus, the first flower the Pilgrims saw when they landed at Plymouth Rock." Eventually, every state had adopted a blooming emblem to represent it, some of which are immortalized on flags and seals. Read on to learn about the South's state flowers and some of the stories behind them.

01 of 17

Alabama: Camellia

Getty Images

Camellias are the colorful winter bloomers that Southern gardeners love. Camellia japonica is Alabama's state flower, and it comes in many different colorful blooms and foliage hues. Some have double flowers, frilled petals, swirled petals…the varieties are vast.

According to the Smithsonian, "The Camellia (Camellia japonica) was designated the official state flower or Alabama on August 26, 1959. It was chosen to replace the original state flower, Goldenrod, selected in 1927."

02 of 17

Arkansas: Apple Blossom

Apple tree, Apple blossoms

Apples, of the family Rosaceae and the genus malus, are one of the most popular fruit trees. They produce pretty, often fragrant flowers in spring followed by apples, the familiar fruit.

According to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, "Apples hold a significant place in the economic and social history of Arkansas, not the least of which is that it was adopted by the state Legislature as the state flower in January 1901."

03 of 17

Delaware: Peach Blossom

Peach Blossom
peng song/Getty Images

Some peach trees are grown for the fruit, others for the blossoming peach flowers. The flowers appear in shades of blush and pink and are borne along the lengths of the branches. According to Delaware.gov, "Passage of the act to adopt the Peach Blossom on May 9, 1895, was prompted by Delaware's reputation as the 'Peach State,' since her orchards contained more than 800,000 peach trees yielding a crop worth thousands of dollars at that time."

04 of 17

Florida: Orange Blossom

Orange Blossom
Jacky Parker Photography/Getty Images

Citrus trees are popular plants for tropical climates. They have deep green foliage and pretty, fragrant flowers in addition to the citrus fruits—what they're known and loved for. The Sweet Orange comes in many varieties, including Cara Cara, Hamlin, Jaffa, Marrs, and Parson Brown.

According to the Florida Department of State, "The blossom of the orange tree (Citrus sinensis) is one of the most fragrant flowers in Florida. Millions of these white flowers perfume the atmosphere throughout central and south Florida during orange blossom time. The orange blossom was selected as the state flower by the 1909 legislature."

05 of 17

Georgia: Cherokee Rose

Cherokee Rose
Undefined undefined/Getty Images

Cherokee rose, also known as Rosa laevigata, is an evergreen climbing rose native to Southeast Asia and naturalized in the South. It produces sharp thorns and dark green leaves along with single white flowers that appear in spring.

According to Georgia College, "The Cherokee Rose became Georgia 's official state 'floral emblem' by virtue of a joint resolution of the General Assembly and approved by Governor Nathaniel Harris on Aug. 18, 1916. The Cherokee Rose was selected as state flower because it has come to represent the removal of the Cherokee from the state in 1838 on what is now known as the 'Trail of Tears.' The white petals represent the Cherokee, and the yellow center represents the gold for which the land was stolen. The Cherokee Rose still grows along the route the Cherokees followed westward to the Oklahoma Territory."

06 of 17

Kentucky: Goldenrod

Brian Hagiwara/Getty Images

These sunny-hued perennials have yellow flowers borne in clusters. They're widely thought to be allergy-inducing, but they may receive more blame than they deserve. They're great plants for pollinators like butterflies, and birds also eat the seeds they produce. Goldenrod became the state flower of Kentucky in 1926.

07 of 17

Louisiana: Magnolia

Southern Magnolia Flower on Branch
Getty/Darryl Brooks / EyeEm

Evergreen magnolias are the state flower of both Louisiana and Mississippi. They have big, fragrant white blossoms and shiny, dark green leaves. They can grow up to 40 feet wide.

According to Louisiana.gov, "The large, creamy-white bloom of the magnolia tree was designated the state flower in 1900 because of its abundance throughout the state. The magnolia is an evergreen and the flower is unusually fragrant."

08 of 17

Maryland: Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan
Steve Cicero/Getty Images

Members of the family Asteraceae and the genus Rudbeckia, black-eyed Susans are some of the brightest garden blooms. They flower in summer and fall and have yellow petals and a raised center.

According to Maryland.gov, "The black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) has been the official Maryland flower since 1918 when it was designated the 'Floral Emblem' of Maryland by the General Assembly (Chapter 458, Acts of 1918; Code General Provisions Article, sec. 7-306)."

09 of 17

Mississippi: Magnolia

Southern Magnolia Flower
Jared I. Lenz Photography/Getty Images

The state flower of both Louisiana and Mississippi, evergreen magnolias have a familiar look—with white flowers and glossy foliage—but they're prone to leaf drop year-round. They usually don't start blooming until they're 10 years old.

According to the Mississippi Encyclopedia, "In November 1900 schoolchildren across Mississippi voted overwhelmingly in favor of the southern magnolia as the state flower. In 1935 schoolchildren selected the southern magnolia as the state tree, a choice that the legislature ratified on 1 April 1938. The state legislature did not make the southern magnolia the official state flower until 1952."

Learn more about magnolias.

10 of 17

Missouri: Hawthorn

sandra standbridge / Getty Image

Missouri's state flower is the hawthorn, a plant that produces small shrubs or trees with clusters of white flowers in spring. After the flowers, they also produce small fruits that look like apples.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, "Hawthorns are valuable ornamental trees, and many cultivars have been derived. In 1923, downy hawthorn (Crataegus mollis) was approved as Missouri's official state flower. Hawthorns have been and are used as a source of medicine. The fruits of some species can be made into jams or tea."

11 of 17

North Carolina: American Dogwood

wbritten/Getty Images

Lots of different dogwoods exist, though Cornus florida is the most well known in the South. They are native to the eastern U.S. and usually reach 20-30 feet tall. They're known for their white blossoms with notches in the centers of the tips.

According to the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, "On March 15, 1941, the General Assembly designated the dogwood as the state flower. In choosing the dogwood the General Assembly called the bloom 'a radiantly beautiful flower which grows abundantly in all parts of this State.'"

Learn more about dogwoods.

12 of 17

South Carolina: Yellow Jessamine

Magicflute002/Getty Images

This vine is known for its speed—it grows quickly and twines around stakes, stalks, and fences—and its blooms—it produces flashy flowers in shades of yellow and cream. Gelsemium sempervirens, the yellow jessamine, is the state flower of South Carolina and, according to The New Southern Living Garden Book, has large blooms in creamy yellow hues in late winter and early spring.

According to the University of South Carolina's South Carolina Encyclopedia, "The yellow, or Carolina, jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) was chosen as state flower by the General Assembly in 1924. In 1923 the legislature appointed a commission to select a floral emblem. Senator[s] […] recommended the yellow jessamine to the senate and house on February 1, 1924, and it was promptly adopted by both chambers."

13 of 17

Tennessee: Iris

Pete Douglass/Getty Images

There are 200 to 300 species of irises, all of which have different shades and shapes. They're loved for their deep and vibrant flowers, many of which bloom purple, indigo, and violet—or combination of shades—with patches of yellow and cream.

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State, "The iris, family Iridaceae, was designated the official state cultivated flower in 1973 by the 88th General Assembly (Public Chapter 16). […] While there are several different colors among the iris, the act naming the iris as the state flower did not name a particular color. By common acceptance, the purple iris is considered the state cultivated flower.

14 of 17

Texas: Bluebonnet

Renata Sharman/Getty Images

Texas is famous for its bluebonnets, so it's no surprise they were chosen as the Lone Star State's official flower. They're the telltale blue-spiked flowers you'll recognize carpeting the Texas countryside. When planted in fall, they'll bloom out in spring.

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, six flowers of the genus Lupinus are called bluebonnets, and all six are considered state flowers of Texas: "The six are Lupinus havardii (Big Bend bluebonnet), Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine), Lupinus plattensis (Nebraska lupine), Lupinus subcarnosus (sandyland bluebonnet), Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), and Lupinus concinnus (bajada lupine)."

The center explains, "The bill approving Lupinus subcarnosus (Texas bluebonnet) as the state flower was signed on March 7, 1901 by Gov. Joseph D. Sayers. The debate then went on for 70 years, as there were a number of other species of bluebonnet native to the State of Texas. On March 8, 1971, the Legislature amended the 1901 statue to include Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) 'and any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded.'"

15 of 17

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Rose

Oklahoma Rose
-asi/Getty Images

Rosa 'Oklahoma' is a hybrid tea rose known for its strong, intensely sweet fragrance and deep red petals. It's a cultivar developed at Oklahoma State University in the 1960s and was adopted as the state's official flower in 2004 after three decades of lobbying by Oklahomans.

16 of 17

Virginia: American Dogwood

OGphoto/Getty Images

Virginia's state flower is also the American dogwood, which usually has white blooms with the distinctive notched shape, though dogwoods can also bloom in pink and magenta hues. They have oval leaves that are bright green on the branch.

According to Virginia Tourism Corporation, many official Virginia emblems were designated per 1-510, including the state bird, seal, beverage and fish, among several other Commonwealth symbols.

17 of 17

West Virginia: Rhododendron

Kate Stoupas/Getty Images

As described in the The New Southern Living Garden Book, "Rhododendrons and azaleas are among the South's favorite shrubs. Many people think of them as entirely different plants, but they both belong to the genus Rhododendron, which comprises more than 800 species and 10,000 named selections."

Rhododendron maximum is the state flower of West Virginia. It has small clusters of small flowers in hues of light pink and purple. The leaves are dark green with a satin-like finish. According to the National Park Service, "School children chose it as the West Virginia state flower in 1903."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles