Ever have one of those weeks when you can’t keep track of what day it is? Yeah, me too.

Wild azalea (often called honeysuckle by
the old timers) with mountain laurel in
the background.

On January 23, 1903–117 years ago–the Legislature of West Virginia passed a joint resolution naming the Rhododendron as the state flower.

I’ve known our state flower for as long as I can remember knowing there was such a thing. Rhododendron grows prolifically in the state with evergreen leaves in the winter and lovely pale to pink flowers in the summer.

But I didn’t know how the flower was selected until well into adulthood. Turns out back in 1902, Thomas C. Miller suggested a flower be chosen as a state emblem. He put word out through The West Virginia School Journal as follows:

“With the object of securing some definite action on the question [of a state flower], I suggest that on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the month of November, 1902, not only pupils in our schools, but all who wish to indicate their preference for a ‘State Flower’ shall vote for a first and second choice and have this vote recorded by the teachers in the school district. Teachers will please to keep an accurate record of the vote and forward the same to this office before the 10th of December following.”

He went on to name some possibilities including: goldenrod, mountain laurel and other species of rhododendron, apple blossom, wild rose, and white clover.

On November 26, 1902, laurel (rhododendron is also known as big laurel) was the overwhelming choice with 19,331 votes. The second runner up, with a distant 3,663 votes, was honeysuckle (wild azalea). Apple blossom, which I think might have gotten my vote, received only 1,224. votes. If you’d like to see the full tally, click HERE.

I wonder if rhododendron won simply because it’s SO prolific? And can we count mountain laurel as well since it was “laurel” that won? Ah, the politics of flowers.

Do you know your state flower? Here in NC it’s dogwood.