What Is The State Flower Of Iowa?

During the summer, blooming wild roses are a common sight in Iowa.
During the summer, blooming wild roses are a common sight in Iowa.

The state flower of Iowa is the wild rose, as designated by the state legislature in 1887. Although no particular species of the wild rose was specified, the wild prairie rose is commonly cited as Iowa's official state flower. In addition to serving as the state flower of Iowa, the wild rose is also a state symbol of North Dakota and the official flower of the United States. All varieties of the rose are considered to symbolize love, beauty devotion, and faith.

Description of the Wild Rose

The wild rose commonly blooms in Iowa from June until late summer. The flower has existed for millions of years and grows naturally throughout North America. The wild prairie rose, known as Rosa arkansana, derived its name from the Arkansas River. The flower has five petals, in varying shades of pink, and has yellow stamen in the center. Wild roses grow in a variety of habitats, including wooded and moist locations. Some wild roses grow together and form dense thickets, while others can grow more independently. The flower's petals and rose hips can be used in traditional medicines and are an important source of food for birds. 

Why Was the Wild Rose Chosen as Iowa's State Flower?

For Iowans, the wild rose represents resilience, love, and beauty. Despite the state's dry and flat landscape, the flower blooms every year. Several species of wild rose are native to the state of Iowa, and differentiating between them can sometimes be challenging, as they are similar in appearance and have the natural ability to hybridize. Therefore, Iowa's legislature felt that the hardy flower was an appropriate symbol for the state. The legislation did not specify a single species but instead agreed that any species of wild rose that grows within the boundaries of the state could be considered an official state flower.

Historical Use and Symbolism

The wild rose has long been used by the indigenous population in North America for purposes including traditional medicines. For example, rose hips were boiled to make eye drops for treating infections. In the late 19th century, the wide distribution of the wild rose throughout Iowa generated support for its consideration as a state flower. Additionally, most Iowans already considered the wild rose as their favorite flower. However, many could not differentiate between the various species. Therefore, in 1896, Iowa lawmakers chose an image of the wild rose to be placed on a silver tea set that was to be presented to the US Navy. The following year, the flower was designated the official state flower of Iowa. According to Iowans, the wild rose is a symbol of beauty, love, passion, devotion, and sensuality. Additionally, Greek mythology associated the flower with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.


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