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What Is the State Flower of Wisconsin? How Was It Decided?   

wood violet

School children were honored to choose Wisconsin’s state flower over 100 years ago. On Arbor Day in 1909, students cast their votes for either the wood violet, wild rose, trailing arbutus, or the white-water lily. And the winner was . . . the wood violet!

This delicate, purple flower had an unofficial status for 40 years. It wasn’t until 1949 that the state legislature approved a bill that made the wood violet Wisconsin’s official flower.

The wood violet goes by several other names, including common blue violet, purple violet, and common meadow violet. Its scientific name is Viola papilionacea.

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What Does a Wood Violet Look Like?

Wood violets have irregular-shaped flowers with five petals. The delicate flower can be purple or blue, sometimes with a hint of white.

Wood Violet
Image Credit: Predrag Lukic, Shutterstock

Is It Illegal to Pick a State Flower?

Many people assume that a state’s official flower has a protected status. While that may be the case in some states, it is not in Wisconsin. Wood violets are neither rare nor endangered. The flowers grow abundantly throughout Wisconsin and the rest of the country. In fact, wood violets are the official flower of three other states: Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

While the flowers are plentiful, it does not mean you can pick a wood violet anywhere. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources prohibits the removal of “any natural growth” from state parks and forests. If you’re on state-owned land, feel free to take a photo of wood violets; just don’t take any flowers home with you. Also, trespassing on private property is never a good idea! If you love wood violets, try growing some in your backyard.

Is It Easy to Grow Wood Violets?

Wood Violet Growing
Image Credit: Kristine Rad, Shutterstock

If you go for a drive along a Wisconsin country road, look at the ditches. Often, wood violets grow right along the road. In other words, they are hearty flowers!

Outdoors, wood violets are perennials that bloom in late spring and early summer. All violets tend to grow well in direct or partial shade. You can also grow them indoors in pots.

Are Wood Violets Edible?

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, all wild violets are edible. You can add wood violets (aka common blue violets) to salads or infuse them in vinegar and syrups, or try your hand at making this violet jelly recipe.

Foraging any wildflower should be done with caution. Be aware of any non-edible look-alikes, and only gather flowers that weren’t exposed to pesticides and other toxins.

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Other Wisconsin State Symbols

Young students chose some of Wisconsin’s other symbols, including the robin as the state bird and the honeybee as the official insect. Some of the state foods are no surprise, given that this is “America’s Dairyland.” Wisconsin’s official beverage is milk, while cheese is the official dairy product.

In the 1950s, both the badger and the white-tail deer were frontrunners for the official state animal. A compromise gave the honor to the badger, while deer were named the wildlife animal.


Featured Image Credit: Oleksandr Filatov, Shutterstock

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