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What Is the State Flower of Wyoming?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 17, 2024
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The state flower of Wyoming is the Indian paintbrush, which is known in Latin as castilleja linariaefolia. It is characterized by its bright tube-shaped blossoms that range in color from vivid orange to deeper red. This flower gets its common name from its resemblance to a multi-tipped paintbrush with fine bristles. The Indian paintbrush has a unique history as the state flower of Wyoming, and it was actually not adopted without some struggle and controversy among some of the state's citizens in positions of influence.

Indian paintbrush flowers have a structure that somewhat differs from other types of blossoms. The outer petals are known as sepals, and these encase lighter-colored smaller blossoms on the inside. The green leaves and stems as well as the sepals are also covered with a series of fine hairs that make up a large part of the Indian paintbrush's namesake.

Although Wyoming had officially become a state in 1890, the state flower of Wyoming was still yet to be decided by 1916. The state leaders first considered the Indian paintbrush after poll results showed the flower as a favorite among the state's school children. The Wyoming chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution also placed support behind adopting this plant out of other possible choices for state flowers. Some additional support from academia soon garnered more notice from the Wyoming state legislature.

One of the most prominent supporters of the proposed state flower of Wyoming was a college political science professor named Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard, who was the first to draft and submit a bill for the measure of passing the state flower into law. The Indian paintbrush actually received the strongest opposition from one of Dr. Hebard's colleagues at the University of Wyoming, a botany professor named Dr. Aven Nelson who believed that the flower was a poor choice for several reasons. He maintained that the Indian paintbrush grew too sparsely throughout the state, it had a good number of sub-species that were difficult for the average layperson to distinguish, and it actually functioned as a parasitic flower that fed off the nutrients from other nearby trees and flowers.

Dr. Nelson believed that the state flower of Wyoming should have been one that was easily identifiable and that could readily be planted in gardens. His arguments were eventually outvoted due to the lobbying efforts of Dr. Hebard. The Indian paintbrush became the state flower by law in 1917.

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Discussion Comments
By cardsfan27 — On Jan 04, 2012

@Emilski - I wish some states would follow suite like Wyoming and pick something that defines a state as opposed to picking something that a lot of other states already have, like the Cardinal being the state bird, which is found all over the place.

I think that the story behind the state flower of Wyoming is very interesting considering that there was actually a bunch of debate between people concerning something so simple.

I also find it interesting that the war that occurred was between two colleagues at the same college. Maybe there was a rivalry between them that caused it to occur, but I find it to be very interesting and would like to find out more about this story. I find it to be a lot more interesting that the reason for picking this particular flower and love hearing the back story as to why particular state things were picked.

By Emilski — On Jan 04, 2012

@matthewc23 - Yeah I have heard Illinois has an official state dance, which is the square dance, and I find that to be fairly ridiculous.

But, I do agree most states have trees and birds and flowers that define the state and give identity to the state.

I know the Cardinal is the state bird of many states and this does not necessarily define the state, but things that are common in the state, like flowers and trees do.

I think that California's official tree is the Redwood and people tend to think of the Redwood as being associated with that area of the country and by picking something sort of random like the Indian Paintbrush it defines the state of Wyoming because it is not found in a lot of state's and is different than others.

By matthewc23 — On Jan 03, 2012

@kentuckycat - I think that that is a popular belief amongst people who are frustrated with their legislators because of some ridiculous measures they may pass.

However, things like state flowers and state seals are something that is done to reflect a state's identity. There seems to be some controversy with the Wyoming state flower because they did not have agreement on the flower and thought that it was not common enough to be considered the state flower.

This argument was in regards to its identity in regards to the state, not the fact that they were deciding on something like a state flower.

Most of the time measures like these have support amongst the populace because they are just simple things that define a states identity. I will admit some do go overboard, but it is a matter of opinion and usually garners a lot of support as long as it is not something I find ridiculous like the state dance.

By kentuckycat — On Jan 03, 2012

I have always wondered something about state flowers and state birds, why do they have them?

To me it seems like there is little that can be gained from having something that is the official state whatever and it seems like a waste of time as far as legislation is concerned.

I know that it is a good idea to promote state identity and make things government official, but I feel like sometimes things like this are fairly silly and that law makers are not doing their duty by serving their constituents and not focusing on serious issues that people of the state need decided. The whole process for this particular state flower seems like it took a lot of the state legislatures time that could have been used for more serious issues.

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