For 114 years, Oklahoma’s state flower was the mistletoe.
But it was always a controversial choice.
In February 1893, while the 2nd Territorial Legislature met in Guthrie, Rep. John A. Wimberly introduced the bill to designate mistletoe as the official floral emblem.
The Women’s Congress of the Columbian World Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 had proposed that the states should consider selecting floral emblems to represent their state at the exposition.
While Oklahoma was not a state, the Oklahoma Pavilion at the exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, promoted the territory to exposition visitors.
Wimberly was the youngest member of the House of Representatives and it was he who, according to The Oklahoman on April 19, 1925, suggested “one of the most interesting traditions.”
“One day the question of the state flower was brought up. Everything from daisies to American Beauty roses was suggested.
A representative from the southern part of the Territory wanted forget-me-nots. “That’s a good name for a state flower, and it’s a pretty flower too,” he said.
“Mr. Wimberly remembered how hard the previous winter had been and that when settlers had died and there were no flowers to put on the graves: “the only thing in the whole country with a bit of color was mistletoe.”
So it was adopted as the new territory’s floral emblem.
“Years later when Oklahoma became a state, members of the constitutional convention carried the old territorial flower over into statehood, thus confirming what has since become one of Oklahoma’s oldest traditions.”
Every few years after it seemed someone would propose a change, it would be discussed and mistletoe would remain.
The sweet pea, yucca and the cowboy rose (not a rose but a part of the mallow family), were among those proposed, but probably the most unusual was the alfalfa blossom.
Before we were even a state, in 1906, William H. Murray stated his preference for alfalfa in a letter to the editor of The Oklahoman:
“Who, indeed, would desire to adopt for a state flower, a parasite?
Let greater Oklahoma be known as the “Alfalfa State.”
In an editorial in The Oklahoman for June 17, 1912, the newspaper came out in support of alfalfa as the state flower:
“Now that Oklahoma has become known as the marvelous alfalfa state, why not use the alfalfa blossom as the state flower?”
“The alfalfa blossoms are pretty; they enrich the scenery, added to the artistic part, alfalfa, is the mortgage lifter of Oklahoma. It is the crop which brings riches to the state; it is a crop which means more to the future than any other crop.”
“Alfalfa blossom — the state flower. It should be adopted”
The hardy little mistletoe stood firm from 1890 until 2004 when Gov. Brad Henry signed a bill into law making the Oklahoma Rose our official state flower. The mistletoe remains the state floral emblem.