The state flower of New York is the rose. New York recognizes roses of any color or color combination in the official legislation that indicates the state flower — Arms and Great Seal of the State, Article 6, Section 75. In general, the rose type people usually associate with the state flower designation is the tea rose.
The rose did not become the state flower of New York until 20 April 1955. It had won the heart of New Yorkers decades earlier, however, placing first in an Arbor Day poll presented to school children in 1891 with 294,816 votes. The runner up in the Arbor Day poll was goldenrod, which some of the population rejected as no more than a weed.
The amount of time the rose has been the state flower of New York is a mere blink compared to how long roses have existed. Fossil evidence reveals that roses have grown for approximately 35 million years. People have cultivated the plants for at least 5,000 years.
One reason why New Yorkers adopted the rose as their state flower is because of the extreme diversity found in the genus. Scientists recognize at least 150 different species of rose, as well as 20,000 individual hybrids. Appearing as both shrubs and vines, roses grow wild and are cultivated not only in New York, but over much of the North American continent. It is for this reason that the rose is the national flower emblem for the entire United States, not just New York.
Supporters of the rose as the state flower of New York point out the exquisite beauty roses have. They also make a case that the perennial nature of the plants is representative of the durability and perseverance of New Yorkers and the American population as a whole. Those in favor of other flowers representing the state argue that the stiff, thorny stems of roses do not reflect the warmth and hospitality of the nation.
Political significance aside, the state flower of New York, which is edible, has recognized medicinal and nutritional value. It is one of the leading natural sources of Vitamin C and contains antioxidants. These traits make the rose an option for treating conditions like high cholesterol and strengthening the immune system.
Roses have particular meanings based on their shape and color. Overall, the rose has stood as a symbol of love and beauty for generations. Perhaps the most famous reference to the state flower of New York is found in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as the character Juliet notes that roses would retain their sweetness even if called something else.