It is interesting how one chooses to represent oneself. The United States is highly engaged in this representation process. Each state in the United States has chosen a flower, a tree, a song, and even a soil to represent itself. Sometimes the states seem to just choose the flower or tree or what have you, because they have an abundance of those. Sometimes, these states attribute a certain specific event or importance to the flower they are choosing. Sometimes the flower may be chosen because of the characteristics that it displays and represents.
So, what does the Montana state flower say about the state of Montana? They have chosen the bitterroot to represent themselves. From the beginning this Montana state flower does not seem to say great things about the state. People don’t often look to indulge in the bitter. Old sayings announce that you must “take the bitter with the sweet” which seems to display a certain necessity, as opposed to desire, in bitterness. The flower is small and pink with a yellow center. Describing the plant thus continues to make the Montana state flower seem indistinguishable and even insignificant. However, Montana seems to think otherwise not just recognizing that they have chosen the bitterroot as their state flower but in recognition of the prevalence of the name. As well as choosing to name the flower as the Montana state flower in 1895, residents of Montana have named three major geographical features after the bitterroot. There are the Bitterroot Mountains, Bitterroot Valley, and the Bitterroot River—all owing their name to the small pink flower. The flower grows in sagebrush plains which may say something about its ability to survive and add beauty to an area otherwise desolate. Many American Indians also used to eat the roots of the flower as a rare treat. Some of the Indians in the area even believed that the plant had magical powers, the Lemhi Shoshone believing that part of the plant could stop a bear attack. Now, if that small flower can stop a bear attack in Montana, who can argue for its usefulness?
So, what have I gathered so far from my research on the flower? It seems to be a pretty flower albeit small growing along throughout the state of Montana. I have never heard the state praised for its beauty, but maybe Montana is claiming a subtler beauty by choosing this as the Montana state flower. By choosing to represent themselves by a small, pink flower, Montana may be laying stock in the beauty of small things and the abundance of them throughout the land. Although the flower does not seem to be big or very notable, its abundance alone could bring beauty to a landscape. The usefulness of the bitterroot to the Indians, also says something about the value that the residents of Montana place on their history. By remembering that the flower was eaten by a delicacy, Montana is in a way remembering its origins. Indians were there before many of the people who live there now, and they noticed the small flower growing throughout the area, and they took the time to find out the usefulness of such a plant.