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What Is the State Flower of West Virginia?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

The state flower of West Virginia is the shrub Rhododendron maximum. First introduced to England by John Bartam and Peter Collison in 1736, this type of rhododendron in also called great laurel or rose bay. Its flowers are either white or pale pink in color and large in size, even in comparison to many other types of rhododendron. Since West Virginia is The Mountain State, the official Rhododendron maximum flower is often confused with others because of their common names.

Both the Rhododendron catawbiense and the Kalmia latifolia are known as mountain laurels. Yet, it is the Rhododendron maximum, or great laurel, that is the state flower of West Virginia, not the ones with "mountain" in their common names. To make things even more confusing, The Mountain State's official flower does have "laurel" in its common name as well. In appearance though, there are more differences than similarities between the great and mountain laurels.

The state flower of West Virginia (WV) is Rhododendron maximum.
The state flower of West Virginia (WV) is Rhododendron maximum.

The great laurel is larger than mountain laurels and has bigger flowers, although all are from the Ericaceae or Heath family. While all three shrubs have attractive dark green leaves, Rhododendron maximum's are the largest. Rhododendron catawbiense's blooms are purple or dark pink rather than white or light pink. Kalmia latifolia's flowers may feature pink stripes and are quite small in size. The whites or pinks of the state flower of West Virginia may feature some colored specks of red or yellow.

The Rhododendron maximum blooms in early to late summer along the east coast of the United States. It grows best in acidic soils in damp, shady areas. This great laurel or rose bay shrub has fluffy, showy clusters of flowers and large, elongated oval leaves. In cold weather, the leaves can roll up to form hollow cylindrical shapes. The Rhododendron maximum tends to grow almost wall-like as it can get very dense.

The rose bay or great laurel was chosen by the legislature as West Virginia's state flower in January of 1903. The selection was made after a vote by public school students as well as a recommendation by the governor. House Joint Resolution 19 of 1903 was adopted by the legislature in order to make the Rhododendron maximum the official state flower of West Virginia. The resolution cites the reason for choosing the great laurel as official flower, other than the governor's recommendation and students' vote, as "...Many of our sister states have adopted some floral emblem."

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Discussion Comments


I have been wondering what the time of year that the rhododendron has maximum blooms. It is for my science class? If

I could get an answer back immediately, that would be great.


I don't live in this state, but enjoy growing the West Virginia state flower in my own garden.

I have some rhododendron flowers in my yard that I look forward to seeing their purple blooms each spring. They are one of the earliest blooming flowers I have, and to me this is a sure sign that spring really is coming.

These plants have very nice leaves that are attractive any time of year, but especially beautiful when they are in bloom.

The only thing I don't like about them is that the blooms never last long enough. They don't grow very fast, but that is OK with me because I really liked the size they were when I bought them.

Knowing how beautiful they are when in bloom, I can see how these mountain laurels would be especially attractive in their natural habitat.


Since I love flowers and gardening, I find it interesting to read about what different state flowers are. The wild rose is my state flower.

It seems like most state flowers are ones that are readily found in that state, easy to grow and flowers that most people have heard of.

The West Virginia state tree is the sugar maple, which is common in many states. When I was in the 5th grade, we had to do an extensive history report on our state.

This is when I learned what some of these facts are about the state I live in. Many of them have sate birds, a state motto and flag as well.

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    • The state flower of West Virginia (WV) is Rhododendron maximum.
      By: Hamik
      The state flower of West Virginia (WV) is Rhododendron maximum.