The Rhode Island State Flower is the Common Blue Violet, the Viola sororia. Two other states in the United States also share the same state flower; this includes the state of Illinois and the state of New Jersey. Found boundlessly throughout the eastern half of the North America continent, the Common Blue Violet is the most extensively found among the flowers in the violet family.
The Common Blue violet was chosen to be the Rhode Island State Flower by the state’s schoolchildren. In 1897, the state School Commissioner Thomas Stockwell administered initial voting to determine the ten finalists that would be later voted on by the school children. The concluded list was the following flowers: the arbutus, the buttercup, the daisy, the goldenrod, the lily, the pansy, the pink, the rose, the violet and the water lily. Once the list was narrowed to ten finalists, a statewide vote was held among the school children. Receiving 10,013 votes, the violet was declared the winner by the State’s commissioner. The winner was declared in a program celebrating Arbor Day in 1897. Although the children held a vote to determine the state’s flower, the state’s General Assembly had yet to vote on the matter. Another 70 years would pass before the General Assembly would make a decision of the official Rhode Island State Flower. With every state in the continental U.S. having an official state flower, Rhode Island, one of the original 13 colonies, was left without a an official flower. In 1967, then politician and former teacher Francis Sherman, presented a bill to officially decide on the Rhode Island State Flower. But it wasn’t until March 11, 1968 that the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the state’s official name, did finally choose the Viola sororia as its state’s flower.
Found primarily in fertile and covered soil, the Violet grows naturally throughout the woodlands of Rhode Island. Known to bloom from April till May, the flower only stands at half of a foot tall when fully matured. The plant’s root system consists of thick, horizontally branched rhizomes from which the Common Blue Violet’s leaves and flowers emerge. This perennial plant, blooms year after year with its vibrant purple petals standing inches above its leaves. The plant’s leaves, although they vary in color from yellowish green to dark forest green, are on average are only 3 inches long and 3 inches wide. The leaves of the Common Blue Violet are of orbicular shape or are oval-shaped. As a young plant, the Common Blue Violet is an edible source of food to animals. Often the leaves of the plant are added to salads and other agrarian dishes. Unlike most plants that rely on bees and other insects to pollinate its flowers in order to reproduce, the violet is different. Known as a cleistogamous, it is a self-pollinating flower, and the largest among the grass family.
Although Rhode Island was the last in the union to select a flower as a representation of its landscape, the Rhode Island State Flower is simple, elegant, and widely loved by all state residents.