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.
Today is the day we observe Memorial Day.
In 1868, Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Old Republic, proclaimed Memorial Day as a day to place flowers on the graves of soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.
For years, Memorial Day was celebrated May 30. Then, in 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act moving most federal holidays to Mondays to ensure a three-day weekend. Since that time, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May.
Originally, the day was to honor soldiers who died fighting the Civil War. However, since World War I, it has been a time to honor all members of the military who have died in war.
This editorial published in The Oklahoman on May 30, 1912, refers to those who died in the Civil War, but the message the anonymous writer expresses of honoring the dead and the hope for peace still rings true.
“Today a mighty nation pauses to put wreaths on the graves of soldiers. It is a day of thoughts that pertain to the bivouac of the dead.
Flags will be displayed at half mast; mourning will be in use; bells will toll.
Over on the hill where marble shafts mark the resting place of those who fell in the conflict where brother was arrayed against brother, flowers will be placed. The living will not forget the dead.
It is a day of sorrow. The older among us can realize the horrors which the day recalls. The younger generation cannot understand.
Today we should be reminded of peace. If the peace movement had been as strong in 1860 as it is today the nation would not have been plunged into civil strife. Memorial Day should impress upon us the horrors of war, it should make that impression so deep that the peace of the world will be assured.”
Since the Civil War, Americans have lost their lives serving in the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War and now the Afghanistan War.
In December of 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act into law designating 3 p.m. local time as the moment for a grateful nation to pause and remember.
This is a part of the statement released at the signing:
“Each Memorial Day, the Nation honors those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While these heroes should be honored every day for their profound contribution to securing our Nation’s freedom, they and their families should be especially honored on Memorial Day. The observance of a National Moment of Remembrance is a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.”
Please take at least a minute today and remember the husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who have given their lives for their country.
Let us never forget.
This is a reprint of an article by Edith C. Johnson, an editorial writer for The Oklahoman, that was first published 95 years ago on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1915:
“Today is Easter — the most significant and appealing festival in the calendar of the year — with the single exception of Christmas.
Easter is our most perfect symbol of hope renewed and our promise of life eternal. Rightly interpreted, it becomes the sign-manual of creative energy bursting the bonds of a thousand limitations. It is the token of new courage with which to face life’s struggle–strong in the belief of an ultimate supremacy. To contemplate the eternal verities for which it stands is to widen our horizon and broaden our purposes and hopes.
Science teaches us that one spring is like another–but science is forgotten in the message of inspiration the recurring springtime brings to a world that is weary with toil and endless disappointments, that is wasting its blood in futile warfare, that is struggling with iron oppressions and that is crushed to earth under the heel of selfishness and cold indifference.
Easter beckons on the human race. Symbolizing the renewal of man’s shining ideals, it revives human faith after the winter of our discontent, and spurs us on to the accomplishment of unbelievable tasks, through a courage that finds its source in the life-giving stream of our spiritual nature.
There is a sublime general in Easter, celebrated by the return of spring with its melting snows and streams, its budding leaves, and its bursting blossoms that once more turn their petals to the sun. Man may fall, but nature always stands proudly erect– for the seed drops to earth, only to blossom forth in greater glory. Man may transgress or evade the law. Inviolable nature keeps it. Man may sullenly turn away from light and truth. All nature turns her face towards the sun.
Thus do we read in the buds and blossoms and leaves of grass the victories of life. The beauties of nature heal and restore us. The incommunicable trees, flowers, the earth and the waters, all growing things and the heavens, bid us live with them and enter into the fullness of life. They proclaim that love shall overcome hate; that justice shall rise above injustice; that right will triumph over might and that dominion and power shall ultimately belong to the righteous and pure in heart.–E.C.J.”
May you find beauty in the Oklahoma spring landscape on this early Easter morning.
Spring will arrive March 20, if you can believe the weatherman. Spring flowers have begun to appear in gardens across the city.
This item appeared in The Oklahoman April 30, 1915:
“WARNING TO FLOWER THIEVES”
“Vandals cut 104 tulips from the flower garden of Mrs. James Geary Wednesday night. Other vandals ruined flowers at the home of Frank Harrah on West Thirteenth street. Other losses are reported on East Fifth street.The civic beauty committee of the Women of “89 has offered a reward of $10 (almost $215 in today’s currency) for the arrest and conviction of flower thieves. This committee has asked the aid of the city authorities in stopping the mutilation of flower gardens and has been promised the services of watchmen.
A number of owners of flowerbeds have loaded their shotguns and propose to protect their property in this severe manner.
The civic beauty committee asks all citizens to make close inquiry of all persons offering to sell flowers, believing that if purchasers will refuse to buy flowers indiscriminately that the practice of stealing flowers will be broken up.”
In the May 7, 1915 newspaper, this followup ran:
“OFFICIALS AFTER FLOWER VANDALS”
“City officials announced Thursday that a vigorous campaign will be waged to arrest flower thieves. Many complaints have been received that marauders were invading parks and lawns and pulling up the flowers. Mayor Overholser has instructed the police department to keep a close lookout for this class of offenders. They wil be severely punished if caught, he says.
Dr. J.G. Street, commissioner of public property is considering offering a reward for the arrest of flower thieves. He will consult the city counselor Friday on the matter and if such a move is within the law it will be offered by this department.”
Further searching did not disclose any arrests, but as flowers continue to bloom across the metro, this should serve as a reminder to leave the flowers for the next person to enjoy.