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Oklahoma State Floral Emblem

Mistletoe Oklahoma Floral Emblem - Mistletoe

(Phoradendron serotinum)

Adopted in 1893.

Mistletoe, (Phoradendron seotinum,) is the oldest of Oklahoma's symbols, adopted first in 1893 as Oklahoma official state floral emblem, 14 years before statehood. Its greenery in the harsh winter months symbolizes the perseverance of early settlers. The colors of the foliage of mistletoe and its berries, green and white, are the state colors of Oklahoma. Mistletoe grows on trees throughout the state and is particularly common in the southern regions of Oklahoma. The dark green leaves and white berries show up brightly during the fall and winter in trees that have shed their own leaves.

Mistletoe a controversial choice for Oklahoma state flower

Alfalfa, forget-me-nots, roses were all discussed before mistletoe became Oklahoma's floral emblem.

BY MARY PHILLIPS mphillips@opubco.com • Published: June 11, 2012

For 114 years, Oklahoma's state flower was the mistletoe.

But it was always a controversial choice.

In February 1893, while the 2nd Territorial Legislature met in Guthrie, Rep. John A. Wimberly introduced the bill to designate mistletoe as the official floral emblem.
Photo - The mistletoe is Oklahoma’s state floral emblem. PHOTO PROVIDED
The mistletoe is Oklahoma’s state floral emblem. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Women's Congress of the Columbian World Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 had proposed that the states should consider selecting floral emblems to represent their state at the exposition. While Oklahoma was not a state, the Oklahoma Pavilion at the exposition, also known as the Chicago World's Fair, promoted the territory to exposition visitors.

Wimberly was the youngest member of the House of Representatives and it was he who, according to The Oklahoman on April 19, 1925, suggested “one of the most interesting traditions.”

“One day the question of the state flower was brought up. Everything from daisies to American Beauty roses was suggested.

A representative from the southern part of the Territory wanted forget-me-nots. “That's a good name for a state flower, and it's a pretty flower too,” he said.

“Mr. Wimberly remembered how hard the previous winter had been and that when settlers had died and there were no flowers to put on the graves: “the only thing in the whole country with a bit of color was mistletoe.”

So it was adopted as the new territory's floral emblem.

“Years later when Oklahoma became a state, members of the constitutional convention carried the old territorial flower over into statehood, thus confirming what has since become one of Oklahoma's oldest traditions.”

Every few years after it seemed someone would propose a change, it would be discussed and mistletoe would remain.

The sweet pea, yucca and the cowboy rose (not a rose but a part of the mallow family), were among those proposed, but probably the most unusual was the alfalfa blossom.

Before we were even a state, in 1906, William H. Murray stated his preference for alfalfa in a letter to the editor of The Oklahoman:

“Who, indeed, would desire to adopt for a state flower, a parasite?

Let greater Oklahoma be known as the “Alfalfa State.”

In an editorial in The Oklahoman for June 17, 1912, the newspaper came out in support of alfalfa as the state flower:

“Now that Oklahoma has become known as the marvelous alfalfa state, why not use the alfalfa blossom as the state flower?”

“The alfalfa blossoms are pretty; they enrich the scenery, added to the artistic part, alfalfa, is the mortgage lifter of Oklahoma. It is the crop which brings riches to the state; it is a crop which means more to the future than any other crop.”

“Alfalfa blossom — the state flower. It should be adopted”

The hardy little mistletoe stood firm from 1890 until 2004 when Gov. Brad Henry signed a bill into law making the Oklahoma Rose our official state flower. The mistletoe remains the state floral emblem.

Oklahoma Floral Emblem: Mistletoe

Oklahoma Floral Emblem - MistletoeMistletoe, (Phoradendron serotinum,) the oldest of Oklahoma's symbols, adopted in 1893 - 14 years before statehood. Mistletoe grows on trees throughout the state and is particularly bountiful in the southern regions of Oklahoma. The dark green leaves and white berries show up brightly during the fall and winter in trees that have shed their own leaves.

Mistletoes are a group of vascular, flowering plants that parasitize stems of trees and shrubs. There are 700-1400 species (depending who you ask) of mistletoe worldwide found in the Viscaceae and Loranthaceae families, located mainly in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Even the family has several synonyms. Renamed by our own Dr. James Reveal as Phoradendron leucarpum (Johnston and Reveal), American mistletoe was previously know as P. serotinum, P. flavescens. Phoradendron has a wide geographic distribution and is found in the US from New Jersey to Florida to Texas. It has a broad host range and parasitizes mostly hardwoods.

Oklahoma Floral Emblem - MistletoeTwo genera of mistletoes grow in the United States: the "dwarf mistletoes" (genus Arceuthobium),and the "true mistletoes" (genus Phoradendron). An introduced mistletoe, the European Viscum album, has been found only in northern California--the apple growing region around Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. This mistletoe was presumably brought into this area inadvertently in the early 1900's on apple stock from Europe. Since then, it has spread over about a 16 square mile area, and is found on at least 20 other native and introduced hardwood tree and shrub species.

This family is characterized by semiparasitic plants, attached to trees or shrubs by haustoria, lacking ordinary roots, but having green (chlorophyllous) leaves and stems; leaves: opposite; flowers: inconspicuous; ovary: inferior; stamens: as many as and opposite the perianth-lobes.

The mistletoes are green, flowering plants that require a living host. Some are rather specific and grow on only a single genus of tree; others occur on a wide range of hardwood species. Even though they are completely parasitic, they do manufacture much of their own food materials by photosynthesis and in general require only water and mineral elements from the host plant. In the absence of the green aerial portions of the mistletoe plant, how ever, the root system of the parasite can utilize host nutrients and remain alive within an infected branch for many years. The mistletoes are dioecoius in that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Because male and female flowers are so similar in appearance it is difficult to tell the sex of the plant unless fruit are present.

Mistletoe infections are spread mainly by birds (robins, bluebirds, thrushes, cedar waxwings, phainopeplas) that feed on the berries. The berries are round, white to pink in color, occur in spikes and are about one-quarter inch in diameter. A berry usually holds a single seed surrounded by a sticky pulp. Birds digest the pulp of the berry and excrete the living seed. By this means seeds are often deposited on susceptible trees. A viscous coating and hair-like threads on the outer surface of the seeds attach excreted seeds firmly to tree branches. Upon germinating, the growing radicle becomes tightly pressed to the branch surface. Young or small trees are seldom infected by mistletoe. In nearly all cases, initial infection occurs on larger or older trees because birds prefer to perch in the tops of taller trees. Severe buildup of mistletoe often occurs within an infected tree because birds are attracted to and may spend prolonged periods feeding on the mistletoe berries.

Infection takes place by means of a specialized, penetrating structure that forces its way through the bark and into the living host tissues. Once infection has occurred, the root system of the parasite grows within the branch. The aerial shoot system begins to develop shortly after the root system is well established. Often several years are required after infection for a new seed bearing plant to develop. The parasite usually does not spread rapidly, but once a plant is established, the root system gradually extends up and down the branch. Defoliation or destruction of the aerial portion does not kill the mistletoe. New shoots may be produced from the root system or the parasite may survive and grow entirely within the infected host tissues. Not until the tree dies, or the infected portion dies or is removed, is the mistletoe killed.

The mistletoes are rather intolerant of cold and near their northern limits aerial shoots are frequently killed by low winter temperatures

The Oklahoma Statutes

The Oklahoma Statutes
TITLE 25. Definitions and General Provisions.
Chapter 3 - State Emblems and Honorary Positions.
SECTION 25-92.
Title 25. Definitions and General Provisions
Chapter 3.- State Flag and Other Emblem

92. State floral emblem.
The mistletoe shall be the floral emblem of the state.
R.L.1910, 2952.

Taxonomic Hierarchy of the Christmas mistletoe

KingdomPlantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass Rosidae –
Order Santalales –
Family Viscaceae – Christmas Mistletoe family
Genus Phoradendron Nutt. – mistletoe
Species Phoradendron tomentosum (DC.) Engelm.
ex Gray – Christmas mistletoe
State Flowers
State Floral Emblems
Flowers & Floral Emblems
Find images and a brief history of the flowers representing, usually by legislative action, the state symbols of each of the fifty states.
The term floral emblem, which refers to flowers specifically, is primarily used in Australia and Canada. In the United States, the term state flower is more often used.

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