What Is the State Flower of Illinois? How Was It Decided?
Illinois became an official state on December 3, 1818. Despite being nicknamed “The Prairie State,” Illinois has several large metropolitan areas. Chicago is the state’s largest city, with a population of 2.673 million¹.
You can find violets growing wild all over Illinois, even in densely populated cities. These beautiful flowers appear in lawns, forests, meadows, and fields. They are a common sight beginning in mid-May. It’s no wonder that the violet is the state flower¹ of Illinois.
The Origin of State Flowers
In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition¹ was held in Chicago. Different states had exhibits up at the fair, each decorated with flowers that represented its respective state. The Women’s Congress suggested during the fair that a national garland of flowers be made. A flower was to be chosen by each state and approved by its legislature. This idea reached bird lovers, who suggested state birds also be added in.
How Was the Violet Decided?
Some states acted quickly choosing their flowers. Others took their time. In 1907, schoolchildren in Illinois¹ were polled to vote on their favorite choice for a state flower.
The children voted for the violet in a poll that also included wild roses and goldenrods. The most common violet in Illinois is the Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia). There are 30 other species¹ of violets that bloom throughout Illinois. The violet was officially signed into law¹ as the state’s flower on January 21, 1908.
The violet isn’t just the state flower of Illinois. Three other states have officially adopted it as their state flower too: Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and New Jersey.
Violets in Illinois
Illinois’ violets are often blue or purple, but they can come in many other colors. Yellow, white, red, orange, and even green violets can be found in the state. Most of these flowers can be identified by their heart-shaped petals, usually five to a flower.
Violet petals are edible by wildlife and by humans too! Rabbits, mice, turkeys, and birds especially enjoy eating the flowers and their seeds. Violets are high in vitamins A and C. In bars and restaurants, violets are often added to cocktails or used as edible decorations for cakes.
Other State Symbols in Illinois
The flower of Illinois, along with many other state symbols, was adopted over 100 years ago. Some symbols have been put in place much more recently¹, though.
The state’s official snack food is popcorn, as decided in 2004. In 2022, the Eastern Milk Snake was named the state’s snake. In 2015, sweet corn was named the state’s vegetable, which makes sense because Illinois does produce huge quantities of it! Illinois’ agricultural commodities generate over $19 billion each year. In addition to other crops, livestock, and dairy, corn makes up 54%¹ of that total. Corn became the state’s official grain in 2018.
In 2017, the state pet was named shelter dogs and cats. Four other states have also recognized shelter pets as their official symbols: Tennessee, California, Colorado, and Georgia. Over 8 million pets are living in shelters throughout the United States.
The violet is the state flower of Illinois, with over 30 species living and growing throughout the state. It was signed into law as the official state flower symbol in 1908.
Violets are beautiful, decorative flowers that appear in grass, prairies, meadows, and forests. What people may be surprised to know is that they are edible by both animals and humans. Fancy desserts and drinks often violets as edible decorations.
Featured Image Credit: Hans, Pixabay