What Is the State Flower of Alaska? How Was It Decided?
The state of Alaska has one of the most unique climates and terrains in the US. The winters are long, dark, and cold. The weather is extremely harsh. Yet, come spring, the valleys are covered with native grasses and flowers, among them being the state flower: the alpine forget-me-not, botanically known as Myosotis alpestritis. It was chosen in 1949.
According to the University of Alaska, the forget-me-not flower is common in all areas of the state except southeast Alaska. This flower species blooms in the warmest months of late June to late July. Clearly, the forget-me-not plant is valuable to Alaskan residents. It was designated as a state flower because Alaskans believe it represents perseverance and constancy traits that characterized Alaska’s first fearless pioneers.
Read on to find out how the flower was decided as a state flower, why it was ideal as a state symbol and the different meanings of the flower to Alaskan residents.
Symbolic Meaning of the Forget-Me-Not Flower
For many years, the forget-me-not flower has been shrouded in symbolism, legends, and myths. One famous legend regarding the symbolism of Alaska’s state flower can be traced back to Germany. The legend claims that when a lord and his lady were walking down a riverbank, the Lord tripped and fell into the river just as he was about to give some flowers to his lady. As he fell, he tossed the flowers to the lady and shouted, “Forget me not!” in German. Unfortunately, he was swept away by the river. The flowers were the only thing left that reminded the woman of the Lord.
In the past, women wore the forget-me-not flower arrangement as a sign of devotion to their lovers. The flowers also meant that women always thought about their husbands when they were away. On the other hand, some cultures used the flower as a symbol of remembrance of a loved one in the event of death. However, this practice has faded over time.
Even today, the forget-me-not flower still symbolizes true love and respect. When you offer these flowers to someone, you promise to remember them and keep them in your thoughts forever. The flowers are also regarded as a symbol of loyalty and faithfulness. Here are a few other instances where the forget-me-not flower is used as a poignant symbol for places and organizations:
- The forget-me-not flower honors those who lost their lives in World War I in Newfoundland.
- The Flower symbolizes the Armenian Genocide Centennial in Armenia.
- The flower is used as a symbol to represent International Missing Children’s Day.
- Forget-me-not flowers are used by the Alzheimer’s Society to symbolize memory loss. It also raises awareness regarding the disease.
How Was It Decided?
Initially, an organization made up of pioneers who arrived in Alaska before 1900 were the first to choose the flower. Aptly named “The grand Igloo,” the pioneers included the alpine flower in their constitution, and it would later be adopted by the general public as a worthwhile representation of their state.
In 1912, the Second Organic Act was passed by the United States Congress, authorizing Alaska to form a territorial government with limited power. On April 28th, 1917, a bill was introduced that proposed the forget-me-not to be designated as Alaska’s official floral emblem.
While the Territorial Governor was working for the cause of statehood in 1926, George Parks noticed that Alaska’s flag was not among the flags of the 48 states flying outside the post office building. Convinced that Alaska needed representation, George persuaded the Alaska American Legion to hold a contest for all Alaskan children from grades 7–12 to design a flag for their territory.
Out of the 142 designs submitted, a design from Benny Benson, a 13-year-old Aleut orphan was the winner. In his design, Benny referenced the forget-me-not flower. He chose this flower because its blue petals represent the Alaskan sky.
When Alaska finally entered the union in 1949 as the 49th state in the US, the alpine forget-me-not was adopted as the official state flower and floral emblem. The law designating the forget-me-not as the official Alaska state flower is found in Section 50 (State Flower) of the Alaska Statutes – 2004, Title 44, Chapter 09, Section 44-09-050.
Characteristics of the Forget-Me-Not
This is a perennial plant that grows 5–12 inches high in optimum conditions. Alpine forget-me-not plants produce flowers with five connected petals in a shade of blue that is reminiscent of the clear Alaskan skies. The flower centers are yellow and white, thus providing a pleasing contrast to the petals and adding color to Alaska’s valleys and hills during the brief summer months.
Being a representation of the beauty and soul of Alaska, the best time to marvel at the beauty of these unique flowers is midsummer, from late June to late July. So, when you notice a blue hue on the mountainside. It’s clear that summer is in full swing in Alaska.
Varieties of the Forget-Me-Not Flower Found in Alaska
There are about 50 species in the alpine genus. While the forget-me-nots are the official alpine flowers, there are other varieties of the plant that you can find growing in Alaska’s harsh landscape. The two most common varieties of the flower grow in the high alpine (the mountain forget-me-not) and the plant that grows near tree lines (splendid forget-me-not).
Uses of Forget-Me-Nots
The forget-me-not is naturally a wild plant. As with many of the flowers and plants that bloom in wild areas, the forget-me-not is an herb with medicinal value. The medicinal application of this wild plant may not be ideal for everyone. Therefore, anyone willing to use the flower’s medicinal properties should consult a physician to verify the best treatment regimen for it.
The entire forget-me-not flower is valued for its styptic properties. If the plant is dried and ground into a powder, it can be applied to wounds to stop bleeding. Moreover, extracts from the plant were used to stop nosebleeds. The flower has also been used as a treatment option for lung conditions.
When using this alpine flower for medical treatment or as an herbal supplement, you should exercise caution. The preparation of the herb tends to release chemicals that may increase the risk of liver disease, cancer, or other underlying medical conditions.
The Official State Flower of Alaska is the alpine forget-me-not, or botanically known as Myosotis alpestritis, and was chosen in 1949. It is a perennial plant native to Alaska and grows up to 12 inches tall. When the plant blooms, it produces flowers with five blue petals and a white or yellow circle in the center. They thrive in alpine conditions and the best time to view them is during summer.
Clearly, the Alpine forget-me-not flower has a lot of value to the State of Alaska. Its floral symbolism reflects the history, culture, and values of the people of Alaska. As such, these flowers should be respected and well taken care of.
See also: 11 Wildflowers That Grow in Alaska (Identification Guide With Pictures)
Featured Image Credit: Piqsels