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The state flower of South Dakota is the pasque flower, which is known in Latin as the pulsatilla hirsutissima. This bloom, which is sometimes known as the wind flower or meadow anemone, generally ranges in color from deep pink, to lavender, to rich purple, though some lighter blooms can also appear to be nearly white. It thrives in the tall prairie grass of South Dakota and is the first flower to noticeably bloom each spring. The word pasque is derived from a French term for Easter, which further ties this flower to the beginning of spring after South Dakota's long winters. This flower species was thus considered a good choice for the state flower of South Dakota since it serves as a representation of the state motto that translates into the phrase "I lead."
Even before its adoption as the official state flower of South Dakota, the pasque was considered an important symbol of renewal and rebirth among both local Native American tribes and Caucasian settlers. The Lakota tribe commonly used the pasque blossoms as a natural source of medicine for many centuries. South Dakota's incorporation into the United States by the early 20th century led state leaders to consider possible candidates for this type of official state symbol. Just as with other new states, the selection of a state flower was intended to give the South Dakota's citizens a feeling of unity and loyalty that was usually not felt as strongly towards a national flower.
The pasque flower was not the only initial candidate for the state flower of South Dakota. Other suggestions included the wild rose and various types of cactus blooms, though many people believed that these choices did not accurately represent the spirit of the new state. This flower was the eventual winner and was adopted as the state flower by law in 1903. A small change was made to the wording of the state legislature's declaration in 1919, adding in the proper Latin name of this new state flower.
Since its adoption, the state flower of South Dakota still carries the distinction of being the only state symbol that is directly tied to its state's motto. Just as the pasque leads the rest of the spring blooms, long-term citizens of South Dakota consider themselves leaders. This use of the state flower is a source of pride in South Dakota for many of its residents.
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