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Now is Your Chance to Change the State Flower of Georgia to a Native Species!

It’s a travesty that the state flower of Georgia is a non-native invasive species! I’m reposting an easy way for anyone who lives in Georgia to change this situation. Thanks to the advocacy of the Georgia Native Plant Society, an act to change the state floral emblem to the native Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) called the Georgia Senate Bill 518 , passed unanimously through the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Tourism. It’s not a done deal. This bill needs to move forward and be voted on by the full Senate before February 29 - less than a week away! (The following information was taken from a GNPS Call to Action message)

What needs to be done NOW! (before February 29)  

  • First, find your Senator HERE 

  • Scroll down on the Georgia General Assembly list of Senators and contact your Senator by phone or e-mail by clicking the Contact button on their profile.

  • Select Legislative Advocacy Senate Bill 518 as the issue your message relates to.

  • GNPS suggests the following talking point (or your own variation on it)  "As one of your constituents, I am asking you to support Senate Bill 518, a bipartisan act to change the state flower from a problematic Category 4 Invasive plant in Georgia to a native plant, Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) - a plant that contributes to the state's rich biodiversity and is a host plant for our state butterfly, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Georgia should promote a native plant species in its identity to align with the state’s priorities to protect and preserve ecosystems. Let's properly represent Georgia's natural heritage with Sweetbay Magnolia as our state flower."

It's time for native sweetbay magnolia to replace problematic Cherokee rose as Georgia's state flower.

Background on the Georgia’s State Flower - the invasive Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata)

When the Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata) was designated as the state flower of Georgia in 1916 it was mistakenly thought to be native to Georgia. It is indigenous to South China and was introduced to Georgia because of deliberate cultivation. Cherokee Rose is an exotic plant that has naturalized in Georgia and is a Category 4 Invasive plant. It is important for Georgia to promote native plant species in its identity to align with the state’s priorities to protect and preserve ecosystems.

Cherokee rose is a pretty flower, but shouldn't be our state flower. (Cherokee Rose at Athens Botanical Gardens, Georgia; photo by Courtney McGough on Flickr from State Symbols USA site)

Senate Bill 518 would change the state flower to Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

  • Sweetbay Magnolia is a native plant found across Georgia that supports the lifecycle of Georgia’s state butterfly, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and contributes to vital pollinator habitat.

  • In most of Georgia, Sweetbay Magnolia hosts 23 species of butterfly and moth species according to the National Wildlife Federation plant finder site.

  • Sweetbay Magnolia has a rich history in Georgia's botanical heritage and is available in the green industry for landscaping.

  • You can read more on the GNPS campaign info sheet, SB 518: A Proposal to Change Georgia's State Flower.

Changing Georgia's state flower to a native plant will help raise awareness about the habitat value native plants add to the ecosystem.

A few years ago I wrote a post called Why Aren't all State Flowers Native  and thought our stunning Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georianum) would be a great state flower - it's already named the Georgia aster; it's vulnerable and rare because of habitat loss due to development not because it is fussy about growing conditions; and asters are one of the top flowering keystone species and serve as popular host and food source for pollinators. The symmetry of the Sweetbay Magnolia supporting the lifecycle of Georgia's state butterfly also make sense so I'm not going to quibble about what native plant represents our state.

If there was a contest, I'd vote for Georgia aster as Georgia's state flower - but sweetbay magnolia works!

I’m thrilled to see GNPS is stepping up their game doing something about moving Georgia forward so the spotlight can shine brightly on the habitat value of native plants to counteract the cultural fetishizing of exotic ornamentals that have no place in our local ecosystems.

Changing the Georgia state flower to a native flower goes a long way towards normalizing native plants in the landscape over non-native and even invasive plants. (This is a section of my front yard micro-meadow a few years ago)

Note: There are no affiliate links in this blog. Please click the highlighted text throughout the post for links to references, details, explanations, worthy organizations or businesses, or examples that I think might be helpful.


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