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Violets As State Flower Symbols
By:  Annebelle Rice, AVS President
Reprinted From The Violet Gazette, Autumn 2000, V1-4,P7.

            It delights me, but does not surprise me that the Violet was adopted as state flower for no less then four states: Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Illinois and New Jersey. Only the rose comes close as a choice for three states, and even then there are three different types of roses.

Image Of The Flag of Wisconin Wisconsin Image of Viola Papilionaceae Courtesy of Toad Shade Farms
            My birth state, Wisconsin, chose the wood Violet (V. papilionacea) in 1909, out of a list that included the wild rose, trailing arbutus and the white waterlily. The final choice was made by school children in a vote on Arbor Day. Because of important quantities of rainfall and an abundance of wet areas, the "wood violet" is very common in Wisconsin. It grows in wet woodlands, meadows, and along roadsides.

Image Of Flag Of Rhode Island Rhode Island Image of Viola pamata from State of Rhode Island Web Site

             School children also chose the Violet (V. palmata) Rhode Island on Arbor Day 1897. The state legislature adopted the violet as a state flower on March 11, 1968 making it one of the last states to adopt a state flower.

             Thirty years later (1998), artist Joan K. Creamer of East Greenwich, RI decorated a large, chicken egg with violets for the Easter White House celebration. The elaborately decorated egg was the third one designed by Ms. Creamer for a White House celebration. The description from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management press release states:

             "Ms. Creamer has chosen the state flower, the violet, as the central theme of the state egg. The outside is crowned with crystal violets from E. H. Ashley & Co., and with hand crafted glass leaves held by golden stems. The egg surface is covered with Swarovski jewels positioned to look like violets set between clear stones." (Providence, RI ranks among the Nation's leading centers of jewelry manufacturers.) After the Easter celebration, the egg will join others as part of a permanent collection at the future Clinton Library.

Image Of Flag Of Illinois Illinois Image of Viola sororia Courtesy of Gary W. Sherwin AVS
            By a margin of 3,855 votes over the wild rose, and with school children again voting, the Violet (V. sororia) was chosen as the Illinois state flower in 1907. A bill making it the official state was passed in 1908. The State of Illinois web page states that this violet is commonly referred to as the 'dooryard' violet, which is easily grown in full sunlight to deep shade. The site also mentions the cleistogamous flowers known to produce seeds without blooming.

Image Of Flag Of New Jersey New Jersey Image of Viola sororia Courtesy of Gary W. Sherwin AVS
             Finally, New Jersey in 1971 officially voted the "common meadow" Violet (v. sororia) as its state flower even though it had been considered as such since 1913. A hardy perennial, the violet grows wild in fields and lawns, and flowers in the early spring.

© 2000 Annebelle Rice
For The American Violet Society
All Rights Reserved


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