- Adopted the Massachusetts state flower in 1918
- Botanical name: Epigaea repens
- Also the official flower of Nova Scotia, Canada
- Mayflower trivia: At one time, mayflowers were used by the Shakers to treat kidney stones
How appropriate that the mayflower is the Massachusetts state flower! After all, the plant bears the same name as the rugged vessel that carried the state’s most famous residents, the Pilgrims, to its shores in 1620. The arrival (and survival) of the Pilgrims and the colony they established is still commemorated today through the annual holiday of Thanksgiving.
Despite its shoe-in fit, the mayflower was not the clear choice when the decision of the state flower first arose. Bills in 1900 and 1901 to designate the mayflower the Massachusetts state flower were each defeated. Not until some 17 years later was the matter firmly decided when the State Board of Education put the issue before the state’s school children. By a ratio of 2:1, the students chose the mayflower over the water lily.
The Massachusetts state flower is an evergreen, ground shrub that can trail for 15 feet. Like the passengers of the Mayflower ship, whose descendants established roots throughout the United States, the mayflower’s range spreads far and wide. It is found in 29 states in the eastern United States as well as parts of Canada.
Within the Bay State, mayflowers are found in every county. The plant prefers to grow in sandy and rocky terrain as well as along trail edges and forest clearings. Because of this, residents of Boston, Worcester and Springfield and other large cities must often travel to less densely populated areas to see mayflowers in person.
From March to July, mayflowers produce numerous clusters of delicate blossoms. The tiny flowers are pink to white in color and range in size from 1/3- to ? inches wide. They give off a fragrant, spicy scent that intensifies over time.
At one time, the mayflower’s evergreen leaves were a popular choice for wreath making in the Bay State. However, over collection of them nearly led to the plant’s complete destruction. Since 1925, it has been illegal to remove or dig up the Massachusetts state flower from its natural setting.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service