What Is the State Flower of Arkansas? How Was It Decided?
Many people are unfamiliar with the state flower of their home state. If you’re an Arkansan, you may be unsure what our state flower is. Knowing what your state’s flower is and how it was selected can be a good way to better understand the native ecology and your state’s history.
Here’s what you should know about the state flower of Arkansas.
What Is the State Flower of Arkansas?
Since 1901, the state flower for Arkansas has been the apple blossom. The only other state that shares this state flower is Michigan.
The apple blossom is, as its name implies, the flowers of the apple tree. These aromatic flowers are usually white to pale pink in color, but the undersides of the petals are usually reddish-pink. They have a scent that is described as similar to a mixture of jasmine, wild rose, honey, and water lily.
Although not typically consumed, apple blossoms are edible and are described as having a flavor similar to honeysuckle. They are usually consumed either as tea, vodka cordial, or jelly. If left on the tree and pollinated, the blooms will turn into fruit.
How Was the Apple Blossom Chosen?
In 1901, Arkansas was one of the nation’s top producers of apples. Because of the importance of this crop, its beautiful flower was selected as the state’s flower. The apple blossom was such an important image to the people of Arkansas that the city of Rogers even held an annual Apple Blossom Festival.
It was during the early 1900s that a Fort Smith newspaper declared their belief that Arkansas would soon compete with Florida and California in available activities and numbers of visitors, even going so far as to declare that Arkansas would join these other two states as “a playground for the nation.” The Apple Blossom Festival’s popularity and visitor draw was cited as a driving factor for this.
Unfortunately, this declaration was not to be. In 1927, frost and disease did significant damage to the apple supply within the state. This loss of fruit and plants ended Arkansas’ domination of the apple industry.
Arkansas’ Own Apple
In the 1840s, a new type of apple was developed in Arkansas. The Arkansas black apple was prized for its dark purplish-black skin and its tart but sweet flavor. This apple is crunchy and is often recommended for cider making and cheese pairings. It retains much of its flavor with cooking, although it doesn’t typically retain its shape well.
The Arkansas black apple almost went extinct by the 1930s, though. Since this apple tree was often kept for personal use and not in large enough numbers for export, its numbers were significantly damaged by the frost and disease that hit apple trees in the late 1920s. Small numbers of personal plants were maintained, though, and the numbers of plants have grown. In fact, specialty produce companies and even some farmer’s markets offer this apple during its peak season in the fall.
Apples have long been an important aspect of the history of the state of Arkansas. Because of their importance within the state, the apple blossom was selected as the state flower over 100 years ago. Although Arkansas is no longer a massive apple producer, the history of these plants is still important and celebrated. The state has even seen a resurgence of interest in its own apple, the Arkansas Black, which almost went extinct almost 100 years ago.
Featured Image Credit: Piqsels