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What Is Utah's State Flower?

Utah's state flower is the delicate Sego Lily, a symbol of resilience and beauty that thrives in the arid deserts. This bloom not only captivates with its elegance but also holds historical significance, having sustained early settlers. Discover how this flower reflects Utah's spirit and why it was chosen to represent the state. What does the Sego Lily mean to you?
April S. Kenyon
April S. Kenyon

Utah’s state flower is the sego lily. School children in the state voted for the flower as their choice for the state floral emblem, and it was adopted as Utah’s state flower on 18 March 1911. Native to the western part of the United States, the sego lily is prominent in the Great Basin and the open grasslands of the state. The sego lily was primarily selected as Utah’s state flower for its historical significance and natural beauty.

In the middle 19th century, a plaque of crickets devoured the crops in the area, leaving families to ration food supplies. At this time, Utah pioneers learned about the edible properties of the sego lily. Taking a cue from the Native Americans who had been consuming the sego lily roots for years, the bulbous roots were dug up and consumed, saving many families from near starvation. This historical fact was not forgotten when Utah’s state flower was selected.

The honeybee is Utah's state insect.
The honeybee is Utah's state insect.

The sego lily blooms in early to mid-summer across the western portion of the United States. Throughout Utah, it can be spotted in the open meadows and sage rangelands of the Great Basin. Utah’s state flower features three white petals tinged with lilac. A deep purple band outlines the yellow base of the flower, and one to four blossoms generally grow on a single stem with linear leaves. Plants generally grow to a height of about 6 to 18 inches (approximately 15 to 45 centimeters).

A plague of crickets set in motion events that would lead to the sego lily becoming Utah's state flower.
A plague of crickets set in motion events that would lead to the sego lily becoming Utah's state flower.

Utah’s state flower is also a native of a number of other western states, though Utah is the only one that claims it as a floral emblem. Sego lilies are also prominent in the states of Nevada, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. The flower is also commonly referred to as the mariposa lily.

Utah's state flower ties in with the rest of the state's natural beauty.
Utah's state flower ties in with the rest of the state's natural beauty.

Other state emblems of Utah include California Gull as the state bird, the Blue Spruce as the state tree, and the Rocky Mountain Elk as the state animal. “The Beehive state,” as Utah is fondly referred to, is well-known for its production of honey. The honeybee is the state insect, and the beehive was chosen as Utah’s state emblem. Utah claims the beehive cluster as the astronomical symbol of the state. The state song is, “Utah, this is the Place,” and "Utah we Love Thee” was selected as the hymn to represent the state.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Utah's state flower?

Utah's state flower is the Sego Lily (Calochortus nuttallii). It was officially designated as the state flower in 1911. The Sego Lily is a native bulbous plant that is particularly admired for its delicate beauty and resilience in dry, arid conditions. It typically blooms from May to July and is found in various habitats across the Beehive State, from valleys to grassy plains and desert areas.

Why was the Sego Lily chosen as Utah's state flower?

The Sego Lily was chosen as Utah's state flower due to its historical significance and its role in supporting early Mormon settlers. According to historical accounts, these settlers consumed the bulb of the Sego Lily during periods of food scarcity, which helped them survive the harsh conditions. Its selection as the state flower is a tribute to the plant's importance in Utah's history and its representation of perseverance and natural beauty.

Where can you find the Sego Lily in Utah?

The Sego Lily can be found across various regions of Utah, thriving in well-drained soils and open areas. It is commonly seen in the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau, and the Mojave Desert regions within the state. Nature enthusiasts can spot this elegant flower in state parks, nature reserves, and even along roadsides during its blooming season from late spring to early summer.

Is the Sego Lily protected in Utah?

While the Sego Lily is not listed as a threatened or endangered species, it is protected by state law in Utah. It is illegal to dig up or collect Sego Lilies on public land without a permit. This protection helps ensure the preservation of the state flower for future generations to appreciate and also maintains the ecological balance in the areas where the plant naturally occurs.

What are some interesting facts about the Sego Lily?

The Sego Lily is not only beautiful but also has several intriguing characteristics. For instance, its bulbs were a food source for Native Americans long before the arrival of Mormon settlers. The flower has three distinct petals and can vary in color from white to pink and yellow. Additionally, the Sego Lily is a perennial plant, meaning it can live for more than two years, reemerging each spring to grace the Utah landscape with its presence.

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Discussion Comments

Heavanet

I didn't realize that the sego lily is the flower for the state of Utah. I think that makes it extra special that school children chose this flower, and that it is native to the western part of the United States. This is a very interesting article, especially for those who like to learn unique facts about the states.

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    • The honeybee is Utah's state insect.
      The honeybee is Utah's state insect.
    • A plague of crickets set in motion events that would lead to the sego lily becoming Utah's state flower.
      By: viter
      A plague of crickets set in motion events that would lead to the sego lily becoming Utah's state flower.
    • Utah's state flower ties in with the rest of the state's natural beauty.
      By: malkolm
      Utah's state flower ties in with the rest of the state's natural beauty.