In the United States, each state has chosen a flower to symbolically represent the state. The Mississippi state flower is the magnolia. Mississippi, interestingly enough, has the same Mississippi state flower and state tree. Magnolias are ancient trees. They evolved before there were bees for pollination. Their large flowers are developed to at once attract beetles and at the same time withstand the damage that beetles can do. Because the magnolia is quite ancient it has survived many damaging events such as ice ages. This has led to the magnolia being quite widespread and certain varieties being isolated. Because of the abundance of the flower in Mississippi, Mississippi has acquired the name Magnolia State. The Mississippi state flower takes quite a long time to grow. Trees raised from seed take many years to reach a state where they can produce flowers and the trees are known for their slow growth. In addition to being known for their slow growth, magnolia trees are also known for their long life. Many of the trees existing in the state have been there for ages, lasting longer than the people who planted them. Growing over the graveyards in Mississippi are the trees that were planted by the people buried in the graveyards. These trees which keep growing year after year have strong, thick, waxy leaves and drop large cones filled with red seeds. The tree is easily recognizable even without the huge, white flowers that cover the tree. The thick leaves carpet the ground underneath the tree. With its dark, green leaves and showy flowers, the Mississippi state flower symbolizes the romanticism of the Old South. These are distinctive trees, easily recognizable, and are beautiful. They take years to grow, but their growth is celebrated throughout the state. The trees are abundant, and, although the flowers are big, they manage to avoid seeming overdone. Instead, with the flowers—as well as the cultured image of the Southern plantation—Mississippi manages to seem larger than life while still maintaining an air of refinement and control.
Again in conjunction with their correspondence to the Old South, the Mississippi state flower is known more for appearance than for any usefulness. This idea, while appropriate, ignores many of the reasons why scientists are so interested in the plant. Everyone in the state of Mississippi can recognize the magnolia, but not many people know how ancient the tree is. Even fewer residents are aware of the medicinal properties of the magnolia bark which have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and the unique properties of the bark which are garnering the interest of the periodontal community. The bark has chemicals which have been shown to reduce anxiety and allergy and asthmatic attacks. As well, the bark seems to inhibit many of the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Despite its majestic appearance, the magnolia is involved in more than just being pretty. People who see the flower are interested first for the appearance, but the tree has been used for many years for its medicinal properties as well. This is a flower that knows how to adapt and how to garner the interest of those who see it.