Why Did Pennsylvania Adopt the Mountain Laurel As Its Official State Flower?


Quick Answer

The white and pink blossoms of Kalmia latifolia, commonly known as the mountain laurel, bloom each spring across the Pennsylvania countryside. Native to the mountainous areas of that state, the mountain laurel's spring floral display is an annual Pennsylvania tourist attraction through early June. Although it is the official state flower, mountain laurel does not have protected status.

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Full Answer

The mountain laurel is a native broadleaf evergreen shrub, classified botanically in the heath family, which also includes azaleas, rhododendrons, cranberries and huckleberries. It features deep green, leathery leaves that are lance-shaped. The original suggestion for a state flower was made in 1927, when a petition was introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to adopt the tulip tree as the official state tree and its flower as the official state flower. After lengthy consideration, the measure died in the state legislature when the General Assembly adjourned that year.

In 1931, the eastern hemlock became the official state tree, but it was not until 1933 that the Pennsylvania General Assembly again debated the state flower issue. Both the House of Representatives and Senate put forth two bills, one favoring the mountain laurel and the other the pink azalea, leaving it to the governor to make the final decision. Governor Gifford Pinchot, a professionally trained forester, is said to have preferred the pink azalea, but influenced by both public opinion and his wife's preference, he decided in favor of the mountain laurel in 1933. The mountain laurel remains the official Pennsylvania state flower to this day.

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