Yard and Garden: Oak Tree and Wild Rose Are Iowa Symbols

December 18, 2019, 3:06 pm | Richard Jauron, Willy Klein

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa has five official symbols, as designated by the Iowa Legislature. These include the state seal, flower, bird, tree and rock. Official symbols represent the cultural heritage and natural treasures of each state. The eastern goldfinch is the state bird; the geode is the state rock. Horticulture specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach share details about the state’s flower and tree.

oak tree at sunset.To have additional questions answered, contact the Hortline at hortline@iastate.edu or 515-294-3108. Hortline provides assistance to home gardeners on lawn, garden and ornamental questions.

What is the state tree of Iowa?  

In 1961, the Iowa General Assembly designated the “oak” as Iowa’s official state tree. Twelve species of oak are native to Iowa. However, no specific oak species was designated by the legislature as the official state tree. According to the Iowa Official Register, “The Iowa General Assembly chose the oak because it is abundant in the state and serves as shelter, food and nesting cover for many animals and birds. It is difficult to find a tract of natural woodland in Iowa that does not have in it at least one species of oak. No other group of trees is more important to people and wildlife. Acorns, the nuts of oak trees, are a dietary staple of many animals and birds. Deer, wild turkeys, pheasants, quail, wood ducks, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, nuthatches, grackles and several kinds of woodpecker are a few of the species that depend on acorns for a significant portion of their diet.”

The oak species native to Iowa include the white oak (Quercus alba), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), pin oak (Quercus palustris), northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis), black oak (Quercus velutina), chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), dwarf chinkapin oak (Quercus prinoides), shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria), blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica) and post oak (Quercus stellata).  

What is the state flower of Iowa?  

wild rose blossom.The 26th Iowa General Assembly designated the “wild rose” as the official state flower in 1897.  Several rose species are native to Iowa. However, the legislators choose the broad term “wild rose” rather than a specific rose species. In 1896, the Iowa legislature selected the wild rose as the motif on a silver tea set presented to the U.S. Navy and used on the battleship USS Iowa (BB-4), a pre-dreadnought battleship. A year later, with the support of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, the legislature designated the wild rose as the state flower of Iowa.

Native (wild) roses are found throughout the state from open woodlands to roadsides to native prairies. The small woody shrubs bloom from June through late summer. Flowers are up to 2.5 inches across, consist of five petals and range in color from pale pink to rose pink. Numerous yellow stamens are located in the center of each flower.

After flowering, apple-like fruit (rose hips) develop on the plants. The 0.5 inch in diameter fruit turn bright red in late summer. Rose hips are an important food source for wildlife. The fruit were also eaten by Native Americans and early settlers. (Rose hips contain high levels of vitamin C.) The most common rose species in Iowa are Rosa arkansana, Rosa blanda, and Rosa carolina.  

McBaine Bur Oak in Winter Snow, by Kyle/stock.adobe.com
Wild rose closeup by Maksym Dragunoy/stock.adobe.com


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