April 4 marks the anniversary of the designation of the goldenrod as Nebraska’s state flower in 1895. A legislative resolution giving the state a floral emblem was introduced by Representative L. P. Judd of Cedar Rapids and later signed into law by Governor Silas A. Holcomb on April 4, 1895. The measure was supported by University of Nebraska botanist Dr. Charles Bessey.
An article by Ida Brockman, daughter of Representative John M. Brockman of Stella, said: “There is probably not a nook or corner of the state where one or more of the numerous species of goldenrod are not found. It is a native and only a true native should be our representative. It has a long season, and nothing could better represent the hardy endurance of Nebraska’s pioneers.”
The designation of the goldenrod as Nebraska’s state floral emblem was not without some opposition. The Omaha Daily Bee reported on April 3, 1895, that if one legislator had had his way, the violet would have become our state flower. During debate in the upper house of Nebraska’s then two-house legislature, “Senator [John C.] Sprecher [of Schuyler] sought to substitute the violet for the golden rod, and in support of his motion made what is by unanimous consent conceded to be the address of the session. It had evidently been carefully prepared, and was as eloquently expressd as it was beautiful in conception. Senator [Charles H.] Sloan [of Geneva] championed the golden rod in an argument worthy of comparison, but evidently delivered on the spur of the moment. The golden rod triumphed, in spite of the poetic eloquence of Senator Sprecher.”
Nebraskans were proud of their new state floral emblem. September 17 was declared “Golden Rod Day” at the Nebraska State Fair in 1895. The Bee said on September 12: “A wagonload of the handsome plant has been secured and everyone within the gates of the fair upon that day will be presented with a spray, which he will be expected to wear as a boutonniere.” – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications