The B1G List: Ranking the State Flowers of the Big Ten

By Johnny Ginter on May 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm
The B1G List: State Flowers of the Big Ten


They're everywhere. Surrounding us. Plotting. Planning. Scheming.

Naw, just foolin'! As we discussed a few weeks ago, birds are the true messengers of Satan, not the lowly flower. Roses and carnations are okay, I guess, but if we're being real (realer than real), I have pretty much zero interest in the bourgeois nonsense that is the modern day house flower industry.

Nope, I like my flowers wild and free, like me. Plus, I'm always fascinated by the process in which a state actually goes out of its way to select a state wildflower. It's like magnets, man; how does it even work?

Still, many states are lame and do not have a designated wildflower, and in that instance I decided to debase myself by ranking their boring ol' regular flower instead. I know, I feel dirty too.

So today I've decided to talk a little about the wildflower or flower in question, and then offer up my best theory as to how it ended up as a meaningless symbol of a state that likely was trying to burnish its green thumb cred without actually having to do anything effectual that would actually burnish its green thumb cred. Enjoy!

11/10. Illinois/New Jersey: Violet


Look, violets are pretty cool, I guess. I'm not hating on violets. But they are definitely the cardinal of the state flower world. "Oh crap, everybody is hopping on the state flower train! What's a flower? Uuuuhhhh rose? Crap! Too obvious! Blue tick coonhound? Wait, that's a breed of dog. Vi-v... vvvvviolet! Boom! Done, let's go home, I'll order Dominos."

Northwestern grads might think this selection is pretty cool, but that is about it. Purple is an alienating color.

9. Wisconsin: Wood Violet

Viola papilionacea


"What's Illinois and New Jersey doing? Violets? Ahaha, I just got a great idea."

8. Nebraska: Goldenrod


Solidago gigantea

I haven't rewarded laziness in these lists, and I'm not about to start now. If a violet is the Faygo of state flowers, then goldenrod is the Mr. Pibb. I really don't know why states that are perceived as being boring and useless go out of their way to select symbols that subconsciously reinforce this. I mean, come on Nebraska, your state produced some of the most exciting football of the 90s! You can do better than freaking goldenrod.

"Well, we've got that one technicolor flower that eats frogs and sings songs from The Sound of Music." "No, no, that's not going to look good on a travel brochure, better use goldenrod."

7. Maryland: Black-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia hirta

At first I was worried that the name of this was a reference to spousal abuse, which would've put this at the bottom of the list, but thankfully my fears were unfounded.

With that said, it's still a fairly boring, nondescript flower, and I like to think that the Maryland state legislature had a really busy day or something when they selected it as one of their state symbols. Honestly if it were just up to me, I'd place Randy Edsall in charge of selecting all of Maryland's state whatevers, because eventually I think everything else would eventually match their flag in being a psychotic kaleidoscope from hell.

6. Iowa: Wild Prairie Rose

Rosa arkansana

I'm a pretty big fan of the wild prairie rose, because even though it looks nothing like a rose in any way, shape, or form, it actually is a close relative to your mom's favorite once-a-year treat (she's eating them, don't tell dad), and I always enjoy a decent measure of subterfuge. And let's be honest, what's a better homage to the ultimate swindler Kirk Ferentz than a flower that lies about what it actually is, and then doesn't really deliver on what is promised?

"Oh, you know what would be even better than a rose? A wild prairie rose! ...Heh heh heh" (and thus, Congressman Sal P. Cooke scored a petty revenge against the more popular legislators in the Iowa statehouse).

5. Indiana: Peony

Indiana, the bouquet filler of states.


Peonies are pretty okay flowers, as far as state flowers go. Nothing too remarkable, but overall something that you'd add to your bouquet to convince someone that you spent more than $10.95 on it at Kroger. It probably won't work though, because everyone knows that they're strictly B or C tier flowers.

So what I'm saying is that Indiana knew exactly what it was doing when it selected the peony to represent it as a state.

4. Pennsylvania: Purple Crown Vetch

Securigera varia

I enjoy this selection for a number of reasons. First, Pennsylvania selected it as its "beautification and conservation plant," which is about as pompous a way you can say "state wildflower" as possible. Secondly, despite being a pretty bog standard pink flower cluster deal, it's actually an invasive species and is poisonous to horses. Oh, and it's basically a weed.

So, to recap: this is a dumb, arrogant selection of what at first appears to be a perfectly pleasant and upstanding plant, but in reality is a deadly vine that chokes the life out of everything it surrounds. No connection to events in the recent past there, no sir. Nope. No.


3. Minnesota: Pink and White Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

Cypripedium reginae

I respect a flower that lives up to its promises.

2. Michigan: Dwarf Lake Iris

Iris lacustris

Sooooo many questions. One: is it Dwarf Lake... iris? or Dwarf... lake iris? If it's the former, can I go to Dwarf Lake? If it's the latter, well, that's kind of boring. Also, I read the Wikipedia page for the iris and it says it's an iris without a beard. Does this mean it's just an iris that hasn't hit puberty? Or one that just doesn't grow facial hair very well? Why does it only grow on limestone outcroppings? What kind of elitist U of M BS is that? Too good for sandstone?!?

Anyway, I have to give Michigan credit for injecting an air of mystery into their decidedly non-mysterious state. In a somehow objective list of Big Ten state flowers (I really hope this doesn't actually exist), you might be number one.

1. Ohio: Large white trillium

Trillium grandiflorum

But this isn't a subjective list! It's rigged, all rigged, and Ohio of course comes out on top once again, in my continuing effort to find new things to make fun of the rest of the Big Ten about. My dream is that one day, someone will use these posts to make an actual argument about which school is superior in the B1G. That would be hilariously sad. Sadlarious.

But I digress. The large white trillium is a winner. Look at this freaking thing:


Truly a blend of genius and perfection, the large white trillium stands firm as proof of a just and loving God. Unlike any other flower before or hence, the large white trillium has petals, is of a pleasing white color, and can be found in the woods, on roadsides, and in fields. The Columbus Crew plays for the Trillium Cup in a rivalry game, and the large white trillium is a favorite of white-tailed deer (aka the king of all forest animals, according to the groundbreaking documentary Bambi).

Well, we did it again. After exhaustive and thorough analysis, Ohio again comes out on top. Truly, truly shocking, and hopefully the state can continue its winning streak next week as our team of scientists looks at the state songs of the B1G. See you next week.

The B1G List: State Birds | State Mottos | State Flowers

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