The Q&A Archives: State Flower Of Oklahoma

Question: I am not finding any information on the state flower of Oklahoma, I would appreciate any help you could offer.

Answer: Oklahoma's state flower is mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum), and here's the history:

Leave it to the Sooner State to adopt the second state flower. Minnesota beat Oklahoma by just a week. But Minnesotans later changed their state flower, because they chose one that doesn?t even grow in Minnesota! On the other hand, Oklahoma?s state flower, mistletoe, wasn?t really a flower, and Oklahoma wasn?t a state yet! It was Oklahoma Territory.

The World?s Fair in Chicago in 1893 inspired both Oklahomans and Minnesotans. Representatives from all the states were invited to choose an official flower to represent them at the Fair.

The passion flower was a leading candidate in Oklahoma until it was announced that it already represented Arkansas. In fact, Arkansas didn?t adopt a state flower until ten years later. Although the passion flower was a candidate, the apple blossom won.

But Oklahomans stuck with their other favorite, mistletoe. It was reportedly chosen because it was once used to decorate a settler?s gravesite when no other flowers were available.

Some people objected that mistletoe is a parasite. But one mistletoe supporter pointed out that the United States? national bird, the bald eagle, is a ?robber.?

Another objection was that mistletoe didn?t grow everywhere in Oklahoma. Since it grows on trees, one could hardly expect to find it on Oklahoma?s treeless plains!

Some Native Americans objected to mistletoe on both counts. It grew mostly in Oklahoma Territory, not that part of Oklahoma known as Indian Territory. They maintained that Oklahoma Territory itself was a parasite on Indian Territory.

But Indians and settlers both gathered mistletoe for sale as Christmas decorations. The World?s Fair people reportedly didn?t believe that mistletoe even grew in Oklahoma. When they received a sample, they ordered a carload for use as decoration at the Fair. A new export business sprang up in Oklahoma Territory.

There was once an aborted attempt to designate the redbud as Oklahoma?s state flower. When redbud fans discovered that Oklahoma already had a state flower, they changed course, and the redbud became the state tree.

In 1986, Oklahoma adopted Indian blanket as its state wildflower. But mistletoe remains, not quite a state flower, but a unique symbol of Oklahoma nonetheless.

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