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Should the sunflower replace the rose as the national flower?

Horticulturist George Ball says the sunflower should replace the rose as the national flower

By / July 7, 2009

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Back in the 1980s, there was quite a heated competition to name the national flower. Not surprisingly, the rose won. (You don't have to be a gardener to love the beauty and fragrance of roses.)

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But now, George Ball, chairman of W. Atlee Burpee & Co.,  has dredged up the issue again – and he wants a recount.

That may sound like sour grapes since Burpee was championing the marigold for national flower back in the '80s – and it came in second.

But Mr. Ball has decided that we should replace the rose with the sunflower. Here's his argument:

First, the well-ogled cultivars [of roses] are all foreign from breeding to production to wholesale distribution.  Their feet don’t touch our native soil, while the lion’s share of their profits go abroad.  This is hardly appropriate for our national flower.  Second, the rose has already represented kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, lords, ladies, courts, religious orders and military units of nations of all stripes.  Strictly on patriotic grounds, the U.S. should have nothing to do with the rose as its national symbol.  Third, there are a great number of native plants that actually originated in our botanically barren land.

I'd have to take issue with "botanically barren land" to describe the United States. But hardly anyone could argue with choosing a native plant.

But then  Ball  goes on to argue for the tomato as our unofficial national fruit (instead of the apple). His points seem based more in commercialism than in home gardening. "When President Reagan named the Rose as our country’s national flower the seed companies weren’t too happy," notes Tom Alexander.

Here's all Ball had to say about the plant he's championing:

Not only did the sunflower originate in eastern Colorado, it’s been an enormous blessing to the world economy, rivaling the rose in importance abroad, and blowing its petals off here in the U.S.

I'm not sure where the "eastern Colorado" came from. Most sources I've seen aren't that specific. But you could make a good argument for sunflowers as the national flower – much as you could for a number of other plants. We'll look into that in tomorrow's post, which will be – naturally – all about sunflowers.

But what do you think about little tempest in a seed packet? If you had to choose a national flower, would it be the rose, the sunflower, or some other plant? And why? Tell us what you think.

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