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  • Writer's pictureKristin Bailey Wilson

Why Goldenrod Natives?

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Ale-8 is the official soft drink of Kentucky; the fresh-water pearl is the state gemstone; bluegrass is the state music; and the goldenrod is the official state flower of Kentucky. Aka, Solidago. Over a hundred species of Solidago bloom around the world, and Kentucky's politicians didn't specify. The statue reads "goldenrod."

Goldenrod blooming earlier this week.

Goldenrod by Kentucky Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 2, Section 2.090, effective October 1, 1942. There's some sort of intrigue though. Apparently in 1921, the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs began to promote the goldenrod as the right choice for a state flower; however, because the United States War Department had designated the trumpet vine as the symbol for the Kentucky militia, some thought that the right choice. Plus, the bluegrass was blowing in the breeze.

White-Haired goldenrod or Solidago albopilosa
White-Haired goldenrod or Solidago albopilosa, blooming under Grey's Arch at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

Who were these women of the Kentucky Federation of Women's Club? I'd like to know their names and learn something about what they had to say. Why the goldenrod? What were the arguments? Who was against it and why?

According to a 1971 book on the history of state emblems by George Earlie Shankle, the Senate passed and the House concurred naming the state flower the goldenrod in March of 1926, sixteen years before the 1942 statue.

There's a little snippet of the controversy in the D.C. paper, Evening Star, on April 21st, 1926 (Library of Congress). The title reads, "Sneezers Ignored." It goes on to say that the Kentucky

Legislature has adopted the goldenrod, and "apparently the hayfever vote is considered negligible." [Note: as a general rule, it's the ragweed causing you to sneeze, not the goldenrod.]

Nebraska designated the goldenrod their state flower in 1895 with a nod to their history and their hardy pioneers, like the flower itself. Alabama adopted the goldenrod too, in 1927, but dumped it for the camellia. A 1938 newspaper article lists the North Carolina state flower as the goldenrod , but it wasn't ever the state flower. The dogwood became their state flower in 1941.

I chose the name for this blog because I love native flowers and the color yellow. I think we should all plant a few more natives. Having goldenrod blooming in your beds announces that you're a Kentuckian, no matter from where you hailed.

There's a story to be told about women advocating, Kentucky's history, and a wildflower that blooms bright yellow and resilient every fall. I'm going to see if I can find it. I'll let you know.

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle
Goldenrod Soldier Beetle


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