As I virtually scampered across the state line from Florida to the next alphabetical state – Georgia – I was surprised that the Peach Blossom was not the state wildflower. Instead, the Cherokee Rose, Rosa laevigata, has been designated as the state floral symbol. The Rose blossom is attractive with its simplicity, purity, and symbolism but the plant itself is not anyone’s garden desire. It is covered in thorns, will grow uncontrolled as a vine as high as you permit it, and will form inpenetrable thickets. It is not native to Georgia or the Americas as it is invasive from China. So why choose the Cherokee Rose as a state flower?
It is now time for a short history lesson. In the early 19th century gold was discovered in north Georgia and the yellow metal drew prospectors, settlers, and land speculators. Unfortunately, this land was inhabited by the Cherokee Nation and President Andrew Jackson ordered the forced removal of Native Americans to points West. Over 12,000 Cherokee were forced to march away from their ancestral homeland to what is now Oklahoma and over half are said to have perished along the way from hunger and cold. The Cherokee who cultivated the Cherokee Rose for medicinal properties looked upon the white petals as mothers’ tears with the yellow center as a symbol of the gold that was their demise.
Tomorrow will be a brighter day as we head to Hawaii!