"A young, distinguished member of the Indiana legislature named Lawrence Baker, who happened to be a peony grower, suggested the Peony. And that is how the Peony ended up on the ballot."
March 15, 1957
On this day, the Peony became Indiana's fourth State Flower.
First, they picked the Carnation, then the Tulip Poplar, next the Zinnia, and then the Peony.
The story of how the Peony became selected as Indiana's state flower is quite interesting.
The fine people of Indiana had initially considered the Zinnia for the honor, but when that was struck down, they started talking about the bloom of the redbud. But then that caused an uproar because people could not determine whether the redbud was a flower, tree, or shrub.
This is when a young, distinguished member of the Indiana legislature named Lawrence Baker, who happened to be a peony grower, suggested the Peony. And that is how the Peony ended up on the ballot.
In 2016, the Daily Journal wrote an excellent article, and it was called “Indiana State Flower Has a Colorful Past.”
The Indiana legislature has adjourned for another year. It was a turbulent session. But at least the lawmakers did not have to grapple with the thorny issue of the State Flower.
It was in March of 1957 that Governor Handley signed a bill that designated the peony as the official State Flower of Indiana. The act surprised many of Hoosier's suddenly uprooted was the reigning State Flower, the Zinnia.
What followed was quite a tempest in a flower pot.
It is a tale that smells of intrigue, and the garden editor of the Indianapolis Star blamed the flower switch on a “small cult of Zinnia-haters.
Perhaps a little history is in order. Every state in the union has an official flower, from the Camillia and Alabama to the Indian Paintbrush in Wyoming. Back home in the Hoosier state. We can't seem to make up our minds.
In 1913, we picked the carnation. Ten years later, we favored the tulip tree blossom. Then, in 1931, lawmakers gave the nod to the Zinnia.
Motives for these changes seem to be lost in time. There appears to have been a trade-off in 1931 when we dropped the tulip tree blossom as the state flower. In that same year, the tulip poplar became the official state tree. That probably saved the hurt feelings of tulip blossom fans.
Zinnia lovers were caught off guard when the flower switch came in 1957.
The Farm Bureau pet and hobby club director put up a protest. “We have 650 clubs with about 10,000 members,” she complained, “and one of our projects for years has been to provide the children with Zinnia seeds to grow. Imagine the children growing peonies!”
Officials at Indiana National Bank already had ordered vast amounts of Zinnia seeds to be given out at the Indianapolis Home Show that year. They could not cancel that order, so they carried on.
If you're a Zinnia lover, you'll be happy to know that Indiana's Zinnia fans did not go down without a fight. They began a letter-writing campaign for newspapers all around the state.
A woman named Meredith Haskett felt compelled to wax poetic about the switch.
Somehow, the men seem quite impelled.
The Zinnia to discard
As Indiana's flower and
I think they should be barred.
From making further boo-boos;
I'd fire them all, perhaps —
If I could have my say.
I'd probably call them saps.
For spending time and money
To make the Peony queen;
She lasts a day or two in the spring —
That’s all — no more she’s seen.
Indiana is a proud state,
Colorful and strong
And sturdy as a Zinnia;
Somebody’s done her wrong.