How a California Art Teacher Named Emma Edwards Green Designed the Idaho State Seal and included the State Flower: the Mock Orange

"The story of how the Mock Orange became the Idaho State Flower is one of luck."

March 2, 1931

On this day, Idaho adopted the Mock Orange as the official State Flower.

In the 1800s, the Mock Orange was known as the Syringa.


The story of how the Mock Orange became the Idaho State Flower is one of luck.

The story centers on a woman named Emma Sarah Edwards.

Her father, John Edwards, had served as the Governor of Missouri.

John and his wife, Emma Jeanne, had raised Emma in Stockton, California.


As a young woman, Emma attended an art school in New York.

But on one fateful trip back home to California, she stopped in Boise to visit friends.

Emma happily extended her visit when she landed a job as an art teacher.

She was further delighted and surprised when her art entry was selected for the Idaho State Seal.

Emma described her submission this way:

The State Flower, the wild syringa, the Mock Orange grows at a woman’s feet while the ripened wheat grows as high as her shoulders.


Emma Edwards Green ended up staying in Idaho for the rest of her life.

She had the distinct honor of being the only American woman to design a state seal.

Sadly, in 1957, Emma’s signature and the Mock Orange were removed from the state seal when it was updated by the artist Paul Evans.

But by 1994, after a public outcry, Emma’s name was restored to the state seal - alongside Paul’s.

Ironically, the Mock Orange, the State Flower, was not returned to the Idaho State Seal and remains omitted. 


There are many fascinating fun facts about the Mock Orange.

The botanical name for Mock Orange is Philadelphus Lewisii, which reveals that Meriwether Lewis discovered this plant on the Lewis and Clark expedition on the 4th of July in 1806.

Native Americans used the straight stems of Mock Orange to make Arrows, which resulted in the common name Arrowwood.

Both the leaves and the bark of Mock Orange contain saponin - a natural source of soap.

The Mock Orange offers a beautiful flush of late spring/early fragrant summer flowers and is a favorite shrub for gardeners.

A 1924 article said,

The Mock Orange comes in the wake of the Lilac, a little more resplendent and more carefree... as if to ease our sense of loss for that fair daughter of the springtime.

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Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)
Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)

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