Ohio State Flower

Scarlet Carnation

Ohio State Flower - Scarlet Carnation

(Dianthus caryophyllus)

Adopted in February 3, 1904.

The red carnation, (Dianthus caryophyllus,) was adopted as Ohio's state flower on February 3, 1904 in memory of President William McKinley, who always wore a red carnation in his lapel.

Native to Eurasia, first being mentioned in use in garlands by classical Greeks and Romans. The flower was named for the Greek dios referring to the god Zeus, and anthos meaning flower, referring to the "flower of the gods".

Ohio State Flower: Scarlet Carnation

Ohio State Flower - Scarlet Carnation

Originally beginning on Long Island in this country in 1852 with imported French carnations, the industry was centered in the Northeast until the middle of this century.

Dr. Levi L. Lamborn was one of the prominent residents of Alliance. One day he was eager to reveal the first carnation to bloom in America to his close friend and political opponent, William McKinley. Being an amateur horticulturist, and also a physician and politician, Dr. Lamborn had successfully propagated one of the six carnation seedlings he had imported from France. He was very excited and proud of this beautiful scarlet carnation and later aptly named it the "Lamborn Red" carnation.

On noting how impressed William McKinley was with this scarlet flower, it is reported that Dr. Lamborn removed the fragrant blossom from the its stem and placed it in his friend's lapel. From that day forward, McKinley was a devoted enthusiast of carnations. When William McKinley became the twenty-fifth President of the United States on November 3, 1896, he proudly wore a "Lamborn Red" carnation in his lapel.

In September of 1901 while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, President McKinley was again wearing his favorite scarlet carnation in his lapel. It was there that he would give a shy young girl his very last "Lamborn Red" boutonniere. For as history records, it was also there just seconds later that President William McKinley was shot by an assassin's bullet and later died.

It wasn't until after President McKinley's death that the Ohio General Assembly passed a joint resolution on February 3, 1904, naming the scarlet carnation the official Ohio floral emblem. Fifty-five years later, on April 8, 1959, the Ohio Legislature named Alliance, Ohio the "Carnation City, for truly it is the home of Ohio's State flower.

Characteristics of the Scarlet Carnation

  • Flowers: Generally terminal to 2-3" across, double, most colors or where colors don't exist (green, blue, black) white flowers are dyed often to create bicolors (tinted) with different colored petal edges; most popular are red, pink, white; strongly fragrant

  • Harvest: When still tight or barely open, life is related to sugar (carbohydrate) content which is highest in mid-afternoon--best time to harvest; sensitive to ethylene which causes "sleepiness"--failure to open-- so STS helps; can be stored dry for several weeks at 31?F in bud stage

  • Foliage: Linear 4-6", narrow, green to glaucous blue with waxy covering

  • Growth habit: Perennial, up to 2 feet tall depending on the strain

  • Uses: Probably the most popular cut flower.

  • Production: Cuttings

  • Propagation: Propagation is by cuttings or seed. The seed germinates in 2 to 3 weeks at 65 to 75 degrees. Carnations are not fully hardy in northern climates and so are sometimes treated as annuals

  • Cultivars: Many hundreds are available. Popular standard series include the Sims and Sidney Littlefields. Considered by many the finest ever was the original 'William Sim' named after the Maine breeder in 1938.

Legislature of Ohio

The legislature of Ohio, on February 3, 1904, chose the scarlet carnation [genus Dianthus] as the State flower. The law read:

WHEREAS, It is fitting and proper that a state should honor and perpetuate the memory of its illustrious sons, in order that our citizens of the future may emulate their example of patriotic devotion and sacrifice to the welfare of the republic; and

WHEREAS, William McKinley was a beloved and devoted citizen of Ohio, and one of the loftiest characters ever given by any state to the history of the nation and the world; and

WHEREAS, The scarlet carnation, because of his love for it, is closely associated with his memory, and the State of Ohio having no floral emblem; Therefore,

Be it resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, the Governor approving: That the scarlet carnation be adopted as the state flower of Ohio, as a token of love and reverence for the memory of William McKinley.

The Ohio Revised Code

The law designating the scarlet carnation as the official Ohio state flower is found in the Ohio Revised Code, General Provisions, Chapter 5, Section 5.02.


SECT; 5.02. Floral emblem of state.

The scarlet carnation is hereby adopted as the state flower as a token of love and reverence for the memory of William McKinley

HISTORY: GC § 29; 97 v 631; Bureau of Code Revision. Eff 10-1-53.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Scarlet Carnation

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
    Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
    Subclass: Caryophyllidae
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae - Pink family
Genus: Dianthus L. - pink
Species: Dianthus caryophyllus L. - carnation

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