What Is the State Flower of Mississippi? History, Health Benefits, & FAQ
Mississippi is a beacon of the southern spirit and an agricultural powerhouse. It’s also a fishing hub for catfish and the birthplace of notable figures like Elvis Presley and Oprah Winfrey.
Like all the other states, Mississippi has a special flower representing its heritage and splendor. Mississippi’s state flower is the magnolia, and its state tree is the Magnolia tree. No wonder the state’s official nickname is the Magnolia State.
How Did Mississippi Decide on Magnolia As Its State Flower?
Mississippi adopted the magnolia as its state flower way back in 1952. However, the magnolia flower was ringing in the hearts and minds of Mississippians way before 1952.
In November 1900, the state held a major election to pick its state flower. However, unlike typical elections, this was an election that wasn’t for adults but for school children instead. A whopping 23,278 children showed up to cast their votes.
There were many other candidates, but they didn’t have enough votes to earn a spot on the pedestal. While the Magnolia grandiflora flower was the clear winner, it wasn’t until 1952 that the state officially adopted it as its state flower. This flower symbolizes strength, perseverance, and endurance but also represents purity, joy, and love.
In 1935, Mississippi held another election to pick the state tree. Magnolia emerged the winner again, cementing its place in the hearts of Mississippians.
Who Discovered the Magnolia Flower?
The earliest recording of the magnolia tree in cultivation was a depiction of the now rare magnolia dealbata by the Aztecs in the Montezuma age. A century later, Europeans visiting the Americas in 1688 discovered the Magnolia virginiana. They named it after a famed 17th-century French botanist, Pierre Magno, hence the name magnolia.
In 1780, the Europeans introduced other Asian magnolia species to the Americas, and with time, many people started cultivating magnolia trees for their beauty. Soon enough, it became a common household feature in the southern states.
What Does the Magnolia Flower Look Like?
The flowers bloom in late March and early April, with cream or pink petals. In full bloom, the flowers grow petals measuring up to 12 inches wide. However, it’s not uncommon to find some magnolia trees with petals that only grow 3 inches wide.
If the flowers’ beauty doesn’t take you in, their scent surely will. Magnolia has a strong floral fragrance with a hint of fruity. Some people say it smells like champagne, which is quite pleasant. Unfortunately, the flower only stays in bloom for a few days. By the time autumn sets in, all the beautiful petals will be on the ground, shriveled and dried up. New seed pods replace the flowers to usher in the next generation of magnolia trees and flowers.
History of the Magnolia Tree
On a sunny day in Mississippi, it’s not uncommon to find Missipians shading below the magnolia trees in the antebellum plantations. But it’s worth noting that human beings were not the first species to shade under these large trees.
Records show that the magnolia tree was present in Asia and North America more than 100 million years ago, making them among the most primitive plants currently in existence. This means that dinosaurs and other prehistoric species also took shade under the magnolia tree.
Although indigenous to South China and the southern states, magnolia trees are found all across the globe. The tree has about 80 species, but almost half are found in the tropics.
Its height varies from shrubby species that grow to only eight feet tall to towering species that reach up to 70 feet tall. Aside from the large, beautiful flowers, you can identify the magnolia tree by its long, green, waxy leaves. The fruits are cone-shaped, with red seeds inside.
The protein-rich pollen of the magnolia tree is a delicacy for wingless beetles. The tree evolved hard carpels to prevent beetles from chewing them up when gnawing on pollen. In exchange for the meal, the beetles pollinate the magnolia to ensure the tree species survives for another 100 million years.
Health Benefits of the Magnolia Flower
The magnolia flower is deeply embedded in the hearts of Mississippians as a symbol of the southern spirit. It also represents perseverance and tranquility. Aside from its symbolic significance, the flower and bark of the magnolia tree boast incredible health benefits. The following are some of them.
Magnolia extracts can help reduce anxiety in people with chronic anxiety owing to their anxiolytic properties. By reducing the production of stress hormones, magnolia mitigates anxiety and depression.
Treats Respiratory Issues
Studies show that extracts from the bud of the Magnolia fargesii can improve symptoms caused by inflammatory lung disease. Again, chemicals found in the magnolia bark help stimulate the production of corticosteroids. These hormones help alleviate inflammation symptoms, common in diseases like asthma and bronchitis.
Magnolia’s bark contains active compounds that mimic cortisol, the hormone that regulates blood sugar in our bodies. These compounds improve how the body controls its blood sugar levels to keep diabetes at bay.
Reduces Allergic Symptoms
The steroid-mimicking ability of compounds in the magnolia plant helps the body mitigate allergic symptoms like inflammation or suppressed breathing. If you have seasonal or specific allergies, taking magnolia supplements might improve your symptoms.
Helps Fight Cancer (Potentially)
Studies show that chemicals in the magnolia bark exhibit certain anti-cancer properties. Hoinokol, a lignan in the magnolia flower, shows significant anti-cancer properties. It prevents the production of cytokines and certain molecules that facilitate the production of cancerous cells, thus slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Promotes a Healthy Liver
The liver is responsible for breaking down nutrients and detoxifying the body. Magnolia supplements promote your liver’s health by increasing the number of toxins the liver flushes out. This is immensely useful for heavy drinkers since they’re more predisposed to suffer from liver diseases.
Helps Treat Gingivitis
Gingivitis affects the gum, causing irritation, bleeding, and swelling. Magnolia helps fight against gingivitis by reducing inflammation and bleeding. In fact, most drugs that treat gingivitis contain magnolia extracts for effective treatment.
Eases Menstrual Discomfort
The tightening of muscles in the uterus leads to painful menstrual cramps. Thankfully, the soothing properties of compounds in the magnolia flower can help reduce cramps. What’s more, it also reduces anxiety and helps regulate mood swings when it’s that time of the month. Chinese herbalists have been prescribing the magnolia flower for menstrual discomfort for many years.
It’s worth noting that extracts from the magnolia flower and bark are extremely potent. As such, it’s advisable to only take small doses and strictly adhere to your doctor’s prescription. Anything over the recommended dose will be detrimental to your health.
For its rich history, visual appeal, and lovely scent, it was only fair for the magnolia flower to become recognized as Mississippi’s state flower. All credit goes to the thousands of kids who recognized just how valuable this flower is and voted in its favor.
Featured Image Credit: djacoby, Pixabay