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Wild Prairie Rose


The State Legislature adopted the Wild Prairie Rose as the North Dakota state flower on this date in 1907. The flower, scientifically labeled Rosa arkansana, is known by a variety of regional monikers and covers most of central North America.

For hundreds of years prior to its official adoption, Native Americans used the flower for its medicinal and edible properties. The Chippewa boiled the root of the plant, either applying the infusion directly onto open wounds as a hemostat, or ingesting the concoction to prevent convulsions. Sioux tribes used the fruit and petals of the plant as a flavoring for tea, jellies, and tobacco, and as a source of food, and the Omaha applied a root poultice to relieve eye problems.

In 1898, students at the University of North Dakota chose green and pink, the colors of the Wild Prairie Rose dotting the UND campus, as the school’s official colors. As UND’s first graduating class, they likened the abundant and hardy wild rose to the state’s “endless green prairies and rosy prospects.”

Although the colors remain UND’s official colors, in the 1920s, green and white were adopted for the school’s athletic colors, and these, along with black, became better known. Also in 1898, the North Dakota Federation of Women’s Clubs proposed that the Prairie Rose be adopted as a state symbol. Schoolchildren also voted, with the majority favoring the Prairie Rose. In response to the widespread support of his constituents, State Senator Louis B. Hanna introduced a bill to name the Wild Prairie Rose as the official state flower. The Legislative Assembly approved the bill on March 7, 1907. The flower was featured on a 20¢ stamp issued by the US Postal Service in 1982, and is also the state flower of Iowa.

Today, the Wild Prairie Rose continues to be used as a flavoring in tea and food, and as an ornamental plant. Despite its many uses and beautiful appearance, it is actually considered a weed by the USDA due to its invasive nature, although its popularity in the state suggests that most North Dakotans don’t seem to mind.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job