Mistletoe Pt. 2 - An Unusual State History with Mistletoe

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 3:37 PM

A few weeks back you wrote an article about mistletoe. Isn’t mistletoe the state flower of Oklahoma? DH

The history of mistletoe in Oklahoma is quite a story and the answer to your question is a resounding yes and no.

As the story goes, Oklahoma territory was to have a pavilion at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The fair proposed states should consider selecting a floral emblem to represent them at the exhibit. So, even though Oklahoma was still a territory rather than a state, Rep. John Wimberly introduced a bill to the Territorial Legislature meeting in Guthrie that would identify mistletoe as the territory’s official floral emblem.

Even thought a variety of flowers were considered to fulfill the honor of serving as the official floral emblem of Oklahoma territory, Mr. Wimberly argued that during the previous hard winter, no flowers could be found to put on graves. The only greenery around to serve that purpose was mistletoe and because of this mistletoe should be selected. His argument must have been compelling because mistletoe prevailed to become Oklahoma’s official floral emblem.

Later, before Oklahoma became a state, Bill Murray who would later become governor of Oklahoma and be known as Alfalfa Bill Murray, lobbied to change the floral emblem from mistletoe to (you guessed it) alfalfa. He asked the question most of us have considered: who in their right might would designate a parasite as the state flower? His desire was for Oklahoma to be known as the Alfalfa state which would align with the success of this crop in the area. However, his efforts were unsuccessful and mistletoe prevailed.

Years later when Oklahoma became a state, members of the constitutional convention made it official: mistletoe would be the official floral emblem of the state.

In 1986 Rep. Kelly Haney of Seminole introduced a bill that would identify the Indian Blanket as the official wildflower of the state. The bill passed and the new symbol was celebrated at a ceremony attended by over twenty Native American tribes. However, with some amount of apology, it was announced the lowly parasite mistletoe would remain Oklahoma’s official floral emblem.

With some degree of predictability, every few years someone would propose a change to no avail until 2004 when Gov. Brad Henry signed into law a bill making the Oklahoma Rose the official state flower of Oklahoma. However, mistletoe continues to remain our official floral emblem.

However, none of our rather unique history with mistletoe should be surprising from a state whose official vegetable is the watermelon, but that is another story.

You can get answers to all your gardening questions by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Help Line at 918-746-3701, dropping by our Diagnostic Center at 4116 E. 15th Street, or by emailing us at mg@tulsamastergardeners.org.