The Iowa legislature chose the Wild Rose to be the motif on a silver tea set presented to the U.S. Navy and used on the battleship Iowa in 1896.
Just three rose hips are said to contain as much Vitamin C as a single orange.
The Wild Rose of Iowa represented resilience and beauty to early European settlers. Despite the state’s dry, flat landscape, the flower bloomed every year in the early summer. Lawmakers felt that the hardy flower symbolized the state so well that they had its picture etched on a silver tea service that was presented to the crew of the U.S.S. Iowa in 1896. The wild rose became the official Iowa state flower in 1897.
Lawmakers choose not to single out a specific species of the rose as the state flower. Instead, they agreed to make any Wild Rose within the state’s boundaries the Iowa state flower.
Several Wild Rose species are native to Iowa and telling them apart is often quite challenging. These Wild Rose species have similar appearances and also have the natural ability to hybridize in the wild. In particular, three species are frequently identified as the Iowa state flower. These three species include the Rosa Arkansana, the Rosa Blanda and the Rosa Carolina.
The Rosa Arkansana grows only in the western quarter of the state. The plant can grow up to three feet tall and blooms with numerous pink to dark pink flowers in June.
The Rosa Blanda is found in the state’s prairies and open woodlands in the northern half of Iowa. It reaches heights of up to four feet and in each year during the month of June, it bursts with showy pink flowers that last throughout the summer.
The Rosa Carolina blooms in the meadows and in the woodlands throughout the state. The Rosa Carolina can also be seen throughout the state’s most populated cities of Cedar Falls, Davenport and Des Moines. Even though the Iowa state flower does well in the wild, it is also found in home gardens as an ornamental bush.
Long before Iowans came to appreciate the Wild Rose, Native Americans valued it for its medicinal and nutritional value. They boiled the “fruit’ of the roses, called rose hips, to make eye drops to treat eye infections. They also produced syrup from rose hips to treat stomach ailments and ate the hips, leaves and flowers of the wild rose when food became scarce.
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