NUMBER OF WORDS: 4580
KEYWORD: "Montana State Flower" = 10
Montana State Flower
In 1893, after the World's Fair in Chicago, Montana was among the first states that adopted its state flower. To choose the Montana state flower, the state formed the Montana Floral Emblem Society, headed by the chairman, Mary Long Alderson. One of the Society's responsibilities was to facilitate the voting process for Montanans to choose their favorite flower. This was very important since the ballots had to be completed and returned by September 1, 1894, the deadline for the submission of the Montana state flower.
Joining in the effort was Montana's press. Countless columns were dedicated to describing the cause and the floral candidates. Being most common in western Montana, the bitterroot, a fragile-looking but hardy flower with delicate pink petals, led the voting in ten of the fifteen counties which voted.
Even so, when the polls were finally closed, more than 32 separate flowers received votes, totaling to 5,857 ballots. The clear winner, however, was the bitterroot, with 3,621, followed by the evening primrose, at 787 votes, and the wild rose at 668.
With the results in, Mrs. Alderson of the Montana Floral Emblem Society urged the 1895 Legislature to respond to public preference and sanction the bitterroot as the Montana state flower. Thus, on February 27, 1895, the bitterroot was adopted as the Montana state flower.
The Montana state flower is a perennial plant. It has an exquisite pink blossom which grows close to the ground and its delicate shadings offer the eye one of the loveliest of wildflowers.
The bitterroot, scientific name Lewisia rediviva, was a logical historical choice. In fact, even before the bitterroot was officially made the Montana state flower, it was already a Montana icon. Its history intertwined that of the state of which it is the official symbol.
The bitterroot was first 'discovered' by Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, in 1805. To remind us of this momentous 'discovery', the Montana state flower was given the genus name 'Lewisia.'
The species name 'rediviva', on the other hand, has little to do with history and everything to do with the plant's hardiness. It was found that the Montana state flower can live for more than a year without water. For this reason, the bitterroot is sometimes called the 'resurrection flower.'
The plant was treasured by Native Americans, especially the Flathead Indians who lived in the Bitter Root Valley. They considered the roots a luxury food, rather than a staple. Each spring, Spokane, Nez Perce, Flathead, Kalispell and Pend d'Oreille gathered near what is now Missoula to dig the prized root.
With a strong Indian heritage and a name derived from the leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the bitterroot was most appropriate as a Montana state flower. In fact, the bitterroot even lent its name to a Montana mountain range, a river, and the famous Bitter Root Valley.