What Is the State Flower of Montana? History, Facts, & FAQ
Every state has an official state flower, but few have as much history as the state flower of Montana. It selected bitterroot as its state flower back in 1894, and it’s one of the more interesting state flowers in the United States. Due to all the interesting facts surrounding bitterroot, it’s well deserving of its own article.
What Is the State Flower of Montana?
Bitterroot, also known as Lewisia rediviva, is the official state flower of Montana. You can only find it in the western portions of the United States and Canada.
Bitterroot is well known for its striking appearance after its leaves wither. What’s left behind is a bright pink or purple flower. It makes it look like someone dropped those beautiful flowers on the ground in otherwise desolate landscapes.
Why Is Bitterroot the State Flower of Montana?
Few states have as much history with their state flower as Montana does with bitterroot. Montana chose to make it its state flower in 1894, so it’s been the official state flower for over 125 years!
Montana created a public vote after the World’s Fair that year, and anyone in the state could vote for their favorite flower to become the official state flower.
In the end, 5,857 people voted for 32 different types of flowers. But even with so many people voting and so many kinds of flowers receiving votes, the result wasn’t close. More than 60% of the vote went to bitterroot, with it receiving 3,621 votes.
Bitterroot has been the official state flower of Montana ever since, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anytime in the near future.
Fun Facts About Bitterroot
Not only is bitterroot an extremely beautiful plant, but there are also many interesting facts about it! Here are five of the most intriguing facts about bitterroot.
1. Bitterroot Is Named After Lewis and Clark
The scientific name of bitterroot is Lewisia rediviva, and the “Lewis” portion of the name is in direct homage to Meriwether Lewis from the now famous Lewis and Clark expedition.
These men get this honor because during their famous trek to the western side of the United States, they documented the plant and were the first ones to describe the plant to the European settlers on the east side of the continent.
2. Lewis and Clark Did Not Discover Bitterroot
While many people often credit Lewis and Clark with discovering bitterroot, Native Americans in the area had actually traded bitterroot long before Europeans showed up.
Lewis and Clark might get the recognition in the name of the scientific name of the flower, but they weren’t the first ones to discover it.
3. Bitterroot Isn’t Bitter in the Spring
While bitterroot has the word bitter right in the name, if you harvest them in early spring, they don’t have a bitter taste. It’s only when they stay in the ground until the summer that they get bitter.
4. Bitterroot Was Once Quite Valuable
There’s plenty of documentation that highlights how important bitterroot was to Native American culture in the western part of the United States.
It was a dietary staple of Native Americans in the area, so, it had quite a bit of value. In fact, a single sack of bitterroot was once worth an entire horse!
5. Bitterroot Can Live for a Year Without Water
If you translate “rediviva” from Latin to English, it roughly translates to “brought back to life.” Bitterroot gets this portion of its scientific name from the fact that it can live for a year without any water. No matter how you look at it, that’s a long time for a plant!
Bitterroot isn’t a name that makes people think of its stunning beauty or interesting facts, but the more that you learn about bitterroot, the more it makes sense that it’s so popular in Montana.
It’s a beautiful flower with a complex history, making it the perfect choice for a state flower, and Montana isn’t going to change that any time soon.
Featured Image Credit: Bill Perry, Shutterstock