How many of the United States’ National Symbols do you know? Most people can name the Bald Eagle as our National Bird. What about our National Flower, or National Tree? Read on to find out!
National Flower: The Rose
On November 20, 1986, President Ronald Reagan declared the rose our National Flower in a special ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. The proclamation reads, in part:
More often than any other flower, we hold the rose dear as the symbol of life and love and devotion, of beauty and eternity… We see proofs of this everywhere. The study of fossils reveals that the rose has existed in America for age upon age… Our first President, George Washington, bred roses… The White House itself boasts a beautiful Rose Garden. We grow roses in all our fifty States… We decorate our celebrations and parades with roses. Most of all, we present roses to those we love, and we lavish them on our altars, our civil shrines, and the final resting places of our honored dead.
Roses have indeed been found in the area now known as the United States for millennia. Fossil specimens of roses dating back 40 million years have been found at Colorado’s Florissant Fossil Beds. There are about 20 species of wild rose native to the U.S. today, including the Virginia Rose and the Wild Prairie Rose. Roses are routinely considered among the most beloved of blooms, making it an obvious choice for our National Flower.
National Bird: Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle has been associated with the United States nearly as long as the country itself has existed. It was adopted as the National Emblem in 1782, when it was used in the Great Seal. Benjamin Franklin famously voiced his concerns that the Bald Eagle was not the right choice, writing in a letter to his daughter, “For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly … besides he is a rank coward: The little king bird not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district.”
Nonetheless, the Bald Eagle has remained the most visible symbol of the country for more than 200 years. At times it has been seriously endangered, but the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and other actions like banning DDT have ensured a strong and healthy population today.
National Tree: The Mighty Oak
In 2004, when The Arbor Day Foundation hosted a vote for our National Tree among 21 finalist trees including redwood and maple. Ultimately, the oak tree won the vote, and in November that same year Congress declared it our National Tree. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a sponsor of the bill, noted, “It is a fine choice to represent our nation’s strength, as it grows from just an acorn into a powerful entity whose many branches continue to strengthen and reach skyward with every passing year.” There are nearly 50 species of oak in the U.S., with varieties found from coast to coast. These popular shade trees are valued for their strong wood and beautiful foliage wherever they are found.