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What Is the State Flower of Washington? Symbols, Facts & FAQ

beautiful coast rhododendron flowers

Every state has a number of state symbols, like a state animal and state flower. States choose their symbols through a variety of means, with popular votes being common. For example, New York’s state flower is the rose, while Washington’s state flower is the coast rhododendron. Let’s find out how it was chosen, why it suits Washington, and some other interesting info.

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How Was Washington’s State Flower Chosen?

In the 1890s, when women in the US still didn’t have the right to vote, Washington asked its women to vote on the state’s flower. The original reason for the vote was to decide what flower would be entered at a floral exhibit for the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, with six flowers in the running.

Voting booths were set up across the state, and women cast their ballots for what they wanted as the state flower. In the end, the clover and the coast rhododendron were the final flowers standing, and the clover lost. Although the “rhodie” was considered the state flower, it wasn’t officially adopted as the state flower until the state legislature made it official in 1959.

About the Coast Rhododendron

The coast rhododendron is a rose-like flowering shrub found all across the Pacific Northwest, Asia, and other parts of the US. In fact, it can grow as far south as Monterey, California. The shrub can grow as tall as 30 feet, but more commonly averages 5–8 feet in height. In the spring, the flower’s tubular blossoms range from white, pale pink, to bright pink.

In Washington, the rhodie is commonly found along forest edges and clearings created by tree falls and forest fires. In some regions of the Cascade Mountains, the rhodie grows at altitudes up to 4,000 feet. The flower doesn’t grow east of the Cascade Mountains, so eastern Washingtonians have to travel to see the flower.

coast rhododendron flowers
Image By: Powerofflowers, Shutterstock

Why Was the Coast Rhododendron Chosen?

The rhodie produces vivid, eye-catching blossoms during the spring, symbolizing new growth and happiness. It’s one of the showiest wild shrubs, and perfectly suited to any home garden. They’re not picky and can survive in a wide range of conditions, with the only hard requirement being acidic soil.

Once fully grown, rhodies steal the spotlight from virtually any other plant with their beautiful, tubular blossoms. Considering that the flower was originally chosen to represent the state at the World Fair, this makes perfect sense.

What Are Washington’s Other State Symbols?

Like every state, Washington has tons of symbols—at the time of this writing, there are 19! Let’s check out some of the other symbols the Evergreen State chose for itself.

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Washington is one of the most beautiful states in the US with vast expanses of picturesque mountains and evergreen forests. Other states have their state flowers, and Washington asked its women to choose theirs: the coast rhododendron.

Featured Image Credit: tab62, Shutterstock


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