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Washington State Flower

Coast Rhododendron

Washington State Flower - Coast Rhododendron

(Rhododendron macrophyllum)

Adopted in 1892.

In 1892, before they had the right to vote, Washington women selected the coast rhododendron, Rhododendron macrophyllum, as the state flower. They wanted an official flower to enter in a floral exhibit at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Six flowers were considered, but the final decision was narrowed to clover and the "rhodie," and voting booths were set up for ladies throughout the state. When the ballots were counted, the rhododendron had been chosen as the Washington state flower.

Washington State Flower: Coast Rhododendron

Washington State Flower - Coast Rhododendron

Rhododendron macrophyllum, the Pacific rhododendron, coast rhododendron or big leaf rhododendron, is a broadleaf evergreen Rhododendron species native to western North America.


It is a shrub growing 2-9 m tall. The leaves, retained for 2-3 years, are 7-23 cm long and 3-7 cm broad. The flowers are 2.8-4 cm long, with five lobes on the corolla; color is usually pink, although variants exist.


This species, like many rhododendrons, thrives in disturbed habitats such as roadside embankments and recently deforested wildlands.
History and cultivation

History and Cultivation

Archibald Menzies found this shrub growing along with Arbutus menziesii in May 1792 when he and George Vancouver made their second landfall after leaving Hawaii, near present day Port Discovery, Washington. Seed was sent to England in 1850 by William Lobb.

Exerpt from:

The Evergreen State's Official "Coast Rhododendron"
by Naomi Mathews (

More than a hundred years ago, the Washington State Senate confirmed that the "Coast Rhododendron" (Rhododendron macrophyllum) would be the new floral emblem for Washington state. One of my required courses prior to graduation from high school included Washington State History. However, my mental recollection fails me about whether we learned much, if anything, about Washington state's flowers. Having lived in the beautiful state of Washington most of my life, I decided to do some research about how, when, and why this gorgeous rhododendron was chosen for this honor.

I invite you to accompany me on a journey back in time to the year 1892, before women even had the right to vote. Delegates from each state had been invited to attend the 1893 World's Fair which was to be held in Chicago. It was suggested that each state decorate their booths with their official flower, if they had one.

Since Washington had not yet selected an official flower, voting booths were set up throughout the state. (I found it very interesting that this election was open to women only, since they were not allowed to vote in other elections.) Some flowers that were suggested included the dogwood, syringa, gaillardia, Washington holly, wild rose, and marguerite. Residents of Spokane, Washington supported the stylized lily (fleur-de-lis). The clover was suggested by Mrs. Ella Higginson, who lived in Bellingham and was the poet laureate of Washington at that time. However, it was Mrs. Alsora Hayner Fry who lauded the Coast Rhododendron. Her love for its outstanding floral beauty as well as its
evergreen leaves led her to nominate it (in writing) to the editor of a newspaper.

Following the distribution of the ballots and completion of the voting process, 53% of the 15,000 women who voted favored the "coast rhododendron." Thus, the new floral emblem for Washington state was confirmed on February 10, 1893. Fifty-six years later on February 10, 1949, it was made official by the state legislature. In 1959, that law was amended to define the "native pink rhododendron" (R. macrophyllum) as the official floral emblem of Washington state.

The Washington Law

The law designating the Rhododendron macrophyllum as the official Washington state flower is found in the Washington Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 1.20, Section 1.20.030.

RCW 1.20.030.
State Flower.

The native species, Rhododendron macrophyllum, is hereby designated as the official flower of the state of Washington.

[1959 c 29 § 1; 1949 c 18 § 1; Rem. Supp. 1949 § 10964-200.]

Taxonomic Hierarchy: (Rhododendron macrophyllum)

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
    Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
    Subclass: Dilleniidae -
Order: Ericales -
Family: Ericaceae - Heath family
Genus: Rhododendron L. - rhododendron
Species: Rhododendron macrophyllum D. Don ex G. Don -
 Pacific rhododendron

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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