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What Is the State Flower of North Carolina?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 17, 2024
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The state flower of North Carolina is Cornus florida, the American, or flowering, dogwood. This tree blossoms in the early spring and summer throughout North Carolina and the eastern United States. In the fall and winter, flowering dogwood bears red berries, which are food for birds as well as small mammals such as beavers, squirrels and mice. Cornus florida has distinctive blooms with a cluster of green-yellow flowers in the center surrounded by four heart-shaped bracts, which are leaves that look like petals. These bracts feature textured lines and most are white although some are red or pink.

The first suggestion of what North Carolina's state flower should be was the daisy rather than the dogwood. The April 1917 issue of the magazine National Geographic suggested the daisy as the state flower of North Carolina. Other publications as well as individuals supported the idea of the daisy, but when a bill was presented to the state legislature, it was defeated. Virginia did officially adopt the American dogwood as its state flower on 6 March 1918.

In the 1930s, pressure was placed again on politicians to try to get the legislature to approve a state flower, and the daisy was one of the choices along with the Venus flytrap, goldenrod, azalea and dogwood. The two top contenders were the dogwood and the azalea. Due to the predominance of the flowering dogwood throughout North Carolina, the legislature approved it. The dogwood became the official state flower of North Carolina on 15 March 1941.

Cornel and boxwood are other names for flowering dogwood. These dogwood trees may grow up to 40 feet (12 m) tall. Cornus florida is found both along the coastal regions of North Carolina as well as the mountain areas. It's also not uncommon to find American dogwood trees in residential yards in the state's cities such as Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh.

Blossoming abundantly in the spring and summer, this state flower of North Carolina also turns into beautiful colors in the fall with vivid reds and oranges. The shiny red berries that form in the fall and winter also create a stunning look to the tree. While the origin of the name "dogwood" isn't known for sure, many people hold the theory that the tree was named for one of its older uses, as an ingredient in a medical wash for dogs with mange.

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