What Is the State Flower of Massachusetts?

N. Madison

The mayflower is the state flower of Massachusetts. This flower is known by several other common names, such as the trailing arbutus, ground laurel, or winter pink, but its species name is Epigaea repens. The mayflower actually is a shrub that spreads low across the ground and prefers soil that is sandy or rocky. The flowers on the shrub are usually pink or white and produce a fragrant scent. The mayflower has been the official state flower of Massachusetts since 1918.

The mayflower has been the official state flower of Massachusetts since 1918.
The mayflower has been the official state flower of Massachusetts since 1918.

In the early 1900s, several bills were introduced to name a state flower of Massachusetts. A few of these, including one introduced by representative Myles O'Brien, Jr., argued in favor of the mayflower. Other bills proposed different flowers, including one for the water lily. Ultimately, none of these bills passed and the state of Massachusetts handed over the responsibility for choosing a state flower to its Department of Agriculture. It seems that this department did not want the job, as it gave the responsibility to the state's Board of Education.

Instead of enlisting its officials to choose, the Board of Education decided to allow school children to vote on the state flower of Massachusetts. The two front runners in the voting were the mayflower and the water lily, but the mayflower won by more than 50,000 votes. More than 100,000 children voted for the mayflower while close to 50,000 named the water lily as their favorite. The General Court of Massachusetts went on to name the mayflower the official state flower in 1918. Seven years later, in 1925, the flower was added to an official list of endangered plants.

The mayflower plant grows low across the ground in a manner often described as spreading and has a stem that can exceed 6 feet (about 1.82 meters) in length. It is perennial, which means it can grow for more than one season; evergreen; and has leaves that are leathery. The shrubs grow in clusters and bloom from March until May.

Mayflower blooms are typically described as shell pink or white, and can be found on the short shoots of the plants. A small purple fruit also grows on this plant and ripens within about six weeks of being pollinated. Ants harvest the pulp from the fruit and eat it, but they leave the seeds underground where they grow into new plants. Other insects and birds also eat the pulp or seeds from this plant.

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