The mayflower has been the official state flower of Massachusetts since 1918, established by the general court after several bills were rejected concerning which flower would represent Massachusetts. The ship that carried the pilgrims to the new world in 1620 got its name from this beautiful and fragrant flower. Mayflowers are scientifically referred to as Epigaea repens and go by these other common names: trailing arbutus, shadflower, and ground laurel. Mayflowers often bloom in May, hence the name.
So, why is the mayflower the state flower of Massachusetts? Is it an actual wildflower that grows naturally? Do mayflowers grow in Massachusetts? What does the mayflower represent? Finally, what are some facts about the mayflower?
Keep reading to discover why the mayflower is the Massachusetts state flower.
Why is the Mayflower the State Flower of Massachusetts?
The mayflower aptly represents Massachusetts as the state flower due to its prolific presence in the upper east coast of America, where the ship the mayflower landed in the 17th century, a moment in history still celebrated today at Thanksgiving.
According to some, the pilgrims saw the mayflowers when they landed, reminding them of the flower’s cousin, the lily of the valley. The Pilgrims decided to name the flower mayflowers and appreciated the way the beautiful flower reminded them of home.
Fast forward to the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Massachusetts tried to introduce the Mayflower as the official state flower and floral emblem. Two bills attempted to pass the Mayflower as the state flower, but they were ultimately defeated before 1918. Later on, school children took a vote for their state flower, and the Mayflower won. After that, the Commonwealth made the flower the official state flower on May 1, 1918.
Is the Mayflower a Real Flower?
The mayflower is a natural flower, though it often gets confused with the ship that carried the pilgrims in 1620. Also known as the lily of the valley, mayflowers are under protection by state law because they were designated to be the state flower in the 1920s.
Before they were chosen as the state flower, mayflowers were incredibly popular in bouquets and hair wreaths and were being overplucked. As of 1925, they are on the endangered list. Part of the reason for being put on the endangered list was people harvested the flower across the lands in the late 1800s and 1900s for various reasons. In 1925, Massachusetts made it illegal to harvest this plant to help protect it from going extinct.
What Does the Mayflower Plant Look Like?
The mayflower plant has a woody stem with oval-shaped leaves. The oval-shaped leaves tend to be white or very pale pink.
Do Mayflowers Grow in Massachusetts?
Mayflowers grow in Massachusetts and other areas around the upper East Coast of North America and North-Eastern Canada. They thrive in rocky or sandy soil near evergreens, similar to other plants in the Ericaceae family, like mountain laurels and cranberries.
Mayflowers grow within USDA zones 3-9 and prefer acidic and well-drained soil. They are susceptible to environmental disturbances and require great care and protection. However, mayflowers could be more prolific in Massachusetts since being listed on the endangered list.
What Does the Mayflower Represent?
While serving as the official flower of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the mayflower has also served as a popular motif throughout history, representing spring, health, happiness, and luck. The mayflower is also sometimes interpreted as a symbol of the American dream.
In Ancient Rome, the mayflower, or lily of the valley, served as a symbol for spring, representing Flora, the goddess of flowers. In early May, the lily of the valley was used to celebrate florals, a festival welcoming spring and rebirth.
Mayflowers also serve as a motif for May Day, as these flowers bloom between March and July. Maypoles are decorated with the mayflower or lily of the valley to celebrate the coming spring.
What are Some Facts about the Mayflower Flower?
- While bees pollinate most plants, ants pollinate the mayflower plant.
- Despite the naturally pleasing scent, mayflowers are not often used in perfumes because it is illegal in many states to interfere with mayflowers.
- The mayflower ultimately became the state flower of Massachusetts because the State Board of Education asked Massachusetts schoolchildren to vote for their choice of what flower should represent their state: the water lily or the mayflower. After the vote took place, the Mayflower plant easily won the contest.
- The mayflower plant bloom around the late March to early May period
- The flower has been on the endangered plant list since 1925
Conclusion: What is the Massachusetts State Flower?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts chose the mayflower as the state flower for Massachusetts in 1918. The mayflower had served throughout history as a symbol of spring and rebirth while also alluding to America’s history when the pilgrims arrived at what would later become North America and survived.
Mayflowers grow throughout various areas of the North-Eastern United States and several parts of Canada. They belong to the Ericaceae family and thrive in rocky, sandy soil. However, since 1925, the flower has been put on the endangered list due to the amount of harvesting that would occur by residents.
Throughout history, the mayflower has served as a representation of spring and symbolizes hope and new beginnings. Their pink and white buds are delicate but durable, making them an excellent choice to represent Massachusetts as the state flower.