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Happy Independence Day: A rose by any other name is a marigold

by Timber Press on July 5, 2010

in Gardening, Natural History

What I’m about to write is blasphemy. At least, it might be considered blasphemy here in Portland, Oregon, The City of Roses.

The fact is that I’m just not a big fan of roses.

Yes, the flower is magnificent, but the bush is rather unsightly, what with its spindly stems and thorny prickles. It’s a lot of shrub for a bloom that size. A rose bush reminds me of youth: gangly limbs but great skin.

Yes, I know the rose has inspired lovers and poets, politicians and warriors. I know it has been used in medicines and teas since, well, since forever (the plant is 35 million years old, after all). And, yes, I know it is a symbol of beauty.

While the rose may be the sacred shrub of Portland (as well as in the Rose Capital of America), what I didn’t know is that in 1986 the rose was also “designated the official flower and floral emblem of the United States of America.”

Gee. I’m really in trouble now, huh?

Knowing this doesn’t change how I feel about roses. In fact, in an age of dramatic change, I wonder if there isn’t another flower that would better (and more accurately) represent the United States? A new symbolic flower for a “new world order.” Something a bit more humble, perhaps?

Photo by Uwe Horst Friese

Enter: the marigold. In 1965, Everett Dirksen suggested (to the U.S. Senate, no less) that this little flower be chosen as the national floral emblem. He reintroduced the resolution in 1967, stating the marigold is “national in character, for it grows and thrives in every one of the fifty states of this nation.”

He went on to write:

“Its robustness reflects the hardihood and character of the generations who pioneered and built this land into a great nation. It is not temperamental about fertility. It resists its natural enemies, the insects. It is self-reliant and requires little attention.”

Okay, marigolds are not as spectacular as roses. Or as sophisticated. Or as sexy. No, they are just one of the many amazing and awe-inspiring flowers that make up the natural world. No more, no less. Which is also true for the rose, when you think about it.

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